My previous post outlined how capitalism used to produce a social class of the super-wealthy who first made their fortunes and then cleverly spent them for the common benefit. Socialism, in all its guises, relies on redistribution of income whereby the wealth is stripped off those who have earned it and then spent by a bunch of losers known as democratically elected governments. These people typically did not make it in the “real” world and chose career in public service to leech off others.
As you may have gathered I am not a great fan of socialism (or democracy for that matter) but there are two fundamental issues here which should trouble not just a right-wing nut like me. Firstly – on what grounds do we assume we can take money from those who have legally earned it and give to those who have not? Secondly – how much are we allowed to take in the range of 0 to 100 percent? If you never thought about these issues now is your chance!
If I fell on hard times and came to you demanding money then, unless I had a baseball bat with me, you would probably kick me out. But when a taxman comes calling with the same demand we are forced to comply. The ethical rationale is that people have a right (typically referred to as fundamental or unalienable) to a minimum standard of living, even at the expense of others. What puzzles me is the moral authority behind this right. Christians will not find much support for institutionalised income redistribution in 2 Thessalonians 3:10:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
Others, depending on their moral compass, may feel that the poor and destitute should be supported but it takes more than a roof over one’s head and three meals a day to have a decent life. The list of human needs is endless and I cannot see how we can brand some of them as “unalienable” and ignore others. What about the right to having an intimate partner? We all know that loneliness has pushed many to the brink. In fact I would argue that it has killed more people in the West than hunger – what are we going to do about it? Pay hookers to have sessions with the homeless people? What about those who desperately want to have children but no one to have them with? As a proud father of two I can attest that it is a monumentally fulfilling role. How can we deprive lonely men of this unalienable right?
I do not deny the moral prerogative of helping those in need (actually I affirm it) but there is no need to institutionalise it. If we allowed people to keep the money they have earned they would themselves decide who to help and how – without the expensive and politically motivated government middlemen.
The other issue touched on above is the extent of redistribution. In most Western countries 35-55% of all wealth generated ends up going through the government coffers (the US sits in high 20s). But what is the maximum limit of this exercise? If an ultra-left government took the power and declared that to secure the unalienable rights of all citizens 90% of all private income would be collected would it still be fair? If yes – why so? If not – why not?
Of course there is no answer to this question because this is not how democratic states operate. No one stops to think about what the moral and legal justification for redistribution is – we just kind of roll with it. What I am saying here is that 90% redistribution is no more and no less justifiable than 10%. If we think we, as a society, can take 10% we can also take 90%. The only absolute number in the possible percentage range of income redistribution is 0%. This corresponds to a situation in which the government does not interfere with the economy or social issues. That is where the super-wealthy donate billions to charity, those reasonably well-off help the needy in their neighbourhood and lonely people look for other lonely people to have a meaningful life.
This, dear readers of da-boss, is called capitalism.