Government 1B: Lesson 15
Does the state have the right to redistribute wealth from some people to others? Why or why not?
The quickest way to answer this question is by saying no, absolutely not. But I assume you will want a little more detail and reasoning behind this answer, so I will elaborate.
The government has been obsessed with extracting money from its people for as long as it has been in existence. Through taxation, tariffs, and redistributing wealth, the government has managed to acquire more money than imaginable. Economic philosophers have given many justifications for this, with the most popular one being equality. It wouldn’t be fair for the rich to keep their riches, so we have to take them and redistribute them to the poor. Don’t like it? Well, then you are not a fair person and are going against the “general will”.
This “general will” was coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher and writer from the 18th century, and it means that all people must give up their rights and liberties to the general will, but (and here’s the catch) you remain free. This new definition of freedom comes from doing what we all collectively want. We all vote and everyone accepts the verdict. But here’s the second catch, if you don’t agree with the verdict you actually do agree. If you are unfortunate enough to be in that small minority of rich people and don’t want your money taken away, the general will says what you really, truly want is what the majority wants — that all the people less well off than you get a piece of your hard-earned wealth.
John Rawls, a 20th-century moral and political philosopher, is another gentleman who uses the justification of equality to take from the rich, but he has coined a different phrase: the “difference principle.” Rawls always favours equality, unless inequality somehow benefits the least well off. This means that if you are a brain surgeon, pilot, captain of a ship, or some other high ranking person, you should not get paid more than the janitor, flight attendant, or the kid mopping the deck, even though your job requires many more years of schooling, time, money and effort to achieve. This goes for your talents as well. Do you have a good voice? Are you able to sing “O Mio Babbino Caro” or “Queen of the Night” very well? Sorry to say, you do not deserve the fruits of your talents that you hold by luck. Just because little Susan does not have a voice for opera, does not mean that she shouldn’t get the opportunity to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and get well paid for it like Rebecca and her good voice does. But since nobody wants to pay to hear Susan try and squeak out “Queen of the Night”, Rebecca should not get paid either. This is all in the name of equality. But isn’t it interesting that John Rawls recognizes the inequality of people
As you might have gathered, both these theories of equality are quite ridiculous and thankfully are very difficult to enforce. Although, I would say we are growing ever nearer a society like the one Rousseau imagined. But me simply saying a theory is ridiculous is not an argument, so I will give two reasons why these theories of equality and taxing the rich are wrong.
Firstly, as hard as Rousseau, Rawls, or anyone can try, it is physically impossible to make every single person equal to everyone else, even by taxing. Factors like the year you were born in, your country of birth, ethnicity, if you have thick beautiful hair, a crooked nose, are tall, or short, will all in some shape or form make you unequal to someone else. This is an obvious problem that even the government had the brains to see. The government tries to convince you of the moral superiority of taxation and equality. They write documents and laws that force you to give up your hard-earned money.
“You were born into a wealthy family. You must be taxed.”
“Your ethnic group is more likely to do well in this job. You must be taxed.”
Unfortunately, we fall for it and have for hundreds of years. Somehow we have been tricked into thinking we have consented to the government’s laws. I will not elaborate my thoughts on consent here, but if you would like to read more on that, go here: https://louisaneudorf.wordpress.com/2022/04/05/voting-is-not-consent-and-we-are-still-slaves/
My second reason against equality and taxing the rich is one you’ve probably heard before, taxation is theft. Taxation goes against one of the most important documents ever written: the Magna Carta.
The very foundation of the Magna Carta is the reassertion of property rights and the operation of government under law. It secures our rights to our land, money, and speech, three things which are under great attack from the government today. Everyone has a right to his own money and that includes those with a lot of it. The government has no right to take it, even with the moral manipulation that it’s for the poor and it’s not fair that you have so much.
In conclusion, taxation is theft. It goes against our fundamental freedoms and rights. Stealing from the rich or the poor is wrong, because that money is theirs and theirs alone.