Rich Bashing Is Unjust and Vicious
Tibor R. Machan
The casual manner in which President Obama proposes that various progressive tax measures be implemented against the so called rich--ones who earn more than two million a year--is indicative of just how deep seated and widespread is the prejudice against wealthy people in the United States of America.
This is the country that had been hailed as the leader of the free world, as substantially capitalist, as mostly enjoying a free market place, etc. It seems however that the team now in charge of administering the laws and public policies of the country hasn’t a clue as to what human freedom or liberty really means. Alternatively, this bunch of politicians and bureaucrats have a corrupt idea of such freedom, well illustrated by an outburst during the U. S. Supreme Court’s hearings of oral arguments concerning the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature policy achievement, generally referred to as Obamacare. The outburst came when someone made the point that it is a violation of a citizen’s right to freedom to mandate that health insurance be purchased by everyone. (I didn’t learn of the source despite looking for it for two weeks.) The substance of it was that those who are being coerced into purchasing health insurance by the individual mandate provision of Obamacare do not have their right to liberty violated; instead it is those who lack such insurance at others’ expense who are so victimized. This is the implication of the now relatively prominent doctrine of positive rights (or liberty).
At the beginning of the country the idea of the right to liberty meant what is now dubbed a negative right. That means that to acknowledge someone’s right to liberty requires that no one is authorized to make the person do anything against his or her own will. It means freedom of choice. One’s right to one’s own life is similarly a negative right, requiring of others only that they refrain from interfering with that life. Not killing, not assaulting, not robbing people is how these negative rights are respected and governments are supposed to be instituted so as to secure such rights in the face of threats or aggression by criminals. Of course, slavery was a rank violation of such rights.
Positive rights, so called, are actually provisions extracted from other people when one needs them. The welfare state is substantially built upon the doctrine of positive rights (or liberty). Because when a citizen does not have the means for achieving various objectives that are important, other citizens are legally required to supply them with such means (mostly fungible funds such as welfare payments or services). Instead of securing everyone the protection of one’s rights to fend for oneself and obtain what is needed for living and flourishing, it is others who are coerced into supplying such provisions. These are the famous “entitlements” that are bankrupting welfare state across the globe. The reason they can be dubbed “entitlements” is that they are legally enacted grants from the treasuries of governments, which are supplied by way of taxation and other sources of the public weal.
No one really pretends that one has a natural right to such provisions, that other people owe their lives and works to the recipients of entitlements as a matter of a legally enforceable right. No, they are created by the government. It used to be monarchs that would make these grants to citizens favored by them but in a more or less democratic system, which lacks firm limits on the power of government, they can be voted into existence. This is the aspect of democracy that such thinkers as Alexis de Tocqueville saw as being destructive. And they were, of course, proven right because all the current fiasco about debts are largely the result of such democratic establishment of entitlements and other expenditures.
The idea that those who are rich may be ripped off a lot more than others is merely a tortuous implication of welfare and warfare statist profligacy. It has nothing at all to do with any just powers of government. Quite the opposite. It is a bias against some citizens who do not deserve being picked on, no different from how placing blacks into involuntary servitude had been the result of such unjust bias.