Revisiting Wealth Redistribution
Statists often clamor for wealth redistribution, mostly implying that the wealth held by those who make or obtain it in the marketplace, without coercion, is in the wrong hands and must be transferred to other people or projects in dire need of it.
Sounds humane, kind, friendly, generous, compassionate and so on, doesn't it? The wealth-redistributors can then brag about how they are the good guys and intimate that those who do not want them to do their taking and redistributing are just a callous, greedy lot.
Yet if you look more carefully at wealth redistribution you find that what the dispute is about isn't really whether wealth should be redistributed. That's because wealth is nearly always being redistributed. You may get a buck for mowing someone's lawn but you will not be sitting on it but usually go to the mall or grocery store or movie and make use of it – indeed, hand it over to someone else who then is going to do the same and this process just keeps going on. Some of the stuff for which the wealth is distributed will be consumed but then the consumer will expand his or her time and energy to create some more wealth. It just keeps going round and round, wealth and its equivalent being endlessly redistributed unless the tax-takers disrupt the process.
So if we are all vigorously engaged in wealth redistribution, what's up with the claim that it is only the tax-takers who do it? It is a lie, that's what.
What really bugs the taxers is not that wealth isn't being redistributed by those being taxed but that where the wealth is headed isn't up to them but up to those who hold the wealth in the first place. The tax-takers don't like us to have the choice about who will receive our wealth, to whom and for what it will be distributed and redistributed, that's what's at stake here. You and I aren't a good enough wealth-redistributor, they are. Mr. Obama, who declared to Joe the Plumber, and Hilary Clinton who told that San Francisco gathering of well healed folks that their wealth will be redistributed, do not believe your and my choices as to where our resources should go are good ones but theirs must be.
Exactly what justifies this belief on the wealth-redistributors' part is a mystery to me. Except it may just be the same as that of the bank robber, burglar, embezzler, and any other confiscator of other people's wealth. They want it and will take it if they can get away with it. That they have absolutely no legitimate reason to believe that their choices of where the wealth should go, to whom it should be redistributed, makes no difference. At least bank-robbers and their ilk don't insult their victims by making the incredible claim that they are taking what isn't theirs because their use of it is superior to what their victims may have used the wealth for. Politicians and their cheerleaders, however, are bald faced liars about this and try to peddle the myth of their superior knowledge of what the funds should go for. And since it isn't their funds – actually, their life and labors and inventiveness – but ours, they pay far less attention to whether it is wisely spend, whether the value of what they use the funds for is well calculated and whether the funds spent is done wisely and prudently. The funds they redistribute turn out to be mostly a waste of precious resources, including, don't make any mistake about this, other people's lives shortened by the process.
This is in fact another instance of the tragedy of the commons, only here it is brought about not so much by way of tragedy but out and out villainy and obfuscation. The takers of our resources aren't better qualified to spend them than we are. They don't do wealth-redistribution right while we do it wrong. They just want to do it because they can, because perversities of the legal system make it possible.
It is time to bring this ruse to an end. Those people's scam should be shut down. Their phony authority to take from everyone so they can use it as they see fit – in the name that they are the nice guys who redistribute wealth while we the greedy bunch intent on keeping it for ourselves – must be abolished. They should be sent off to join Bernie Madoff by now.
Posted by Greg Colvin on 09/04/10 10:15 PM
No. But it can't be fixed by less taxation either, so long as we keep spending. But the biggest fix we need is to somehow get the legislature back into the service of the voters, and not the corporations that bribe them with political campaigns funding. One suggestion, since TV ads are the biggest campaign expense, and TV frequencies are publicly owned, is to just give adequate air time to all candidates, and forbid them to buy more.
Posted by Greg Colvin on 09/04/10 07:37 PM
I'm with you, and am tired of arguments that all the rich people got their wealth ethically, and entirely from their own work, and so owe nothing to their society. Also tired of people who treat taxes as theft, rather than the price we pay for civilization, and therefore have no compunction about cheating on their taxes. I've yet to see a modern society actually working with no taxes, and some high-tax nations are doing very well, so I'm more inclined to try to fix America than pray that it collapses into some sort of golden utopia. Collapse may be likely, but is I think far more likely to lead to Fascism than utopia.
Reply from The Daily Bell
You believe America can be fixed by more taxation?
Posted by Capt. A. on 09/04/10 02:32 PM
"The plain fact is that those 'who crave the comforts and security of subordination' outnumber the 'free souls,' and there is no credible evidence that this relationship is likely to change in any appreciable degree now or at any calculable time in the future." — James J. Martin, libertarian historian and editor
"Most people dream away their lives with the illusion that everything would be perfect -- if only..."
The cogent argument of Dr. Machan is clear as a sounding "bell!" If only...
How many people in this world recognize exactly what Dr. Machan says and yet they are described perfectly by James J. Martin, quoted above? OK ... so taking something that does not belong to you simply because you have a badge and a gun (legalized plunder) is the turpitude that the collective agrees to, whether you like it or not! Argue all you want about this moral turpitude, use perfect reason and logic, present the truth that is incontrovertible and ... the thugs with the badge and gun will still collect and redistribute to and for the collective! Capisce? If you disagree you are yanking it like a monkey in a mango tree! Disagree enough and you might die disagreeing, as in really dead. The sanction of the collective will be enforced. Go ahead, disagree!
At the present time there is only ONE way to stop the State legally, or the collective, from its plundering. I've already made this clear as a "bell," at the Bell on numerous occasions. People elect voluntary servitude by choice. Think not? Think again.
If you truly want to be free from the collective, you will become free. If you merely talk about being free you will remain a tax slave under the master's lash and yoke. Simple as that.
Principaute de Monaco
GMT 2:00 CET
Posted by Davidus Romanus on 09/04/10 11:11 AM
You don't know any socialists? I tell you, I know people right here in my town who think it is morally correct to steal other people's money if they have what is deemed as too much. It is then morally appropriate to take this money and help those deemed to be less fortunate. Nothing you say about private property and theft will change their minds. They worship the god of egalitarianism.
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 09/03/10 11:53 PM
Entropy is a force in nature that causes organized systems to decay and lose structure. You've characterized the effect of entropy on social systems I think. Can this force be overcome? A physicist would say no, that it can only be countered.
Posted by Tibor R. Machan on 09/03/10 11:15 PM
Robin Hood was no crook. He reclaimed what had been taxed away from people and held by the powerful! Hail Robin!
Posted by Publius on 09/03/10 08:45 PM
The State redistributes wealth upwards, not downwards. The function of the State is enforce it's armed robbery for the very wealthy. It is obvious to anyone on the bottom that wealth is redistributed upwards and naturally like all others who see someone else getting something for nothing they want a piece of the pie. And so the game goes on. A faction of the wealthy bribes the plebians for power, another faction bribes the wealthy for power, and in the end the public interest is the tragedy of the commons. Justice, let us recall, was defined by an opponent of Socrates, as the interest of the stronger.
Posted by John S on 09/03/10 05:22 PM
"The ties between England and what would become the United States of America were severed, as Tench Coxe, delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress, put it, in large part due to the perversion and mal-administration of the British government.[i] Two hundred years later, Americans are manifesting similar levels of frustration with government and inflammatory terms like secession are being used by politicians ever anxious to grab the media spotlight and secure their re-election. But what have they done exactly to correct the "perversion and mal-administration" of the government?
Our founders, astute students of history, well understood as St. Augustine had described, Libido Dominandi, the lust to dominate. They knew that if permitted, the federal government would transgress the limits of the constitution, and, as Thomas Jefferson remarked, "[annihilate] the state governments and erect upon their ruins a general consolidated government."[ii]
Mr. Jefferson wrote in 1799, "lest [our] silence be construed into an acquiescence...the states...being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of [the federal government's] infraction; and "That a nullification, by those sovereignties [states] of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument [the Constituion] is the rightful remedy.[iii]
Mr. Jefferson understood that a stronger response than mere petitions and protests would be necessary but he sought ever to preserve the union and thus viewed secession only as a last resort.
He understood that the states must stand in defense of the liberty of the people. He knew the federal government would seek to annihilate the states and dominate all American life.
Thomas E. Woods Jr., in his recent best-seller, Nullification, references state representative John Breckinridge's comments to the Kentucky legislature of 1799, "the people at the state level ought to make a legislative declaration that, being unconstitutional, they [federal actions] are therefore void and of no effect." With regard to unconstitutional federal actions, Breckinridge hoped "Congress might repeal them, or that decent judges might refuse to act upon them" but in the interim recognized the states obligation to "nullify those acts and to protect their citizens from their operation."
What stops us from following in Mr. Jefferson's footsteps and declaring Obamacare and Cap and Trade Initiatives, "palpable violations of the said constitution" and "consider a silent acquiescence as highly criminal?" In that vein, the Texas legislature has the "right and is duty bound to interpose for arresting the progress of evil, and for maintaining our authorities, rights and liberties" declaring this federal action unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect in the sovereign state of Texas![iv] Failing to do so, we, as Congressman Edward Livingston of New York declared in 1798 "deserve the chains which these measures are forging" for us.[v]" -Debra Medina
Posted by Victor Barney on 09/03/10 04:21 PM
Dr. Tibor Machan, another great article by you! However, we can't "Bernie Madoff" them, that's just part of their power & control game! This Marxists(anti-messiah) takeover voted in primarily through the white women vote, control everything! The now control the Presidency, House of Representatives, Senate, Courts, as well as, the Supreme Court! Guess what? Marxists as yet have never given back what they have won through the "democratic process"! Will we be the first to take it back from them in history? Watch!
Posted by Greg Colvin on 09/03/10 03:25 PM
Education is great, though I doubt sufficient. I've been reading free-market literature and arguing with libertarian friends for decades, and remain, to my disappointment, unconvinced that a stable society can be organized purely on such grounds. And historically, to actually change the form of a government usually takes a revolution. I know how to revolt nonviolently, but most do not. More education.
Posted by Lyfo on 09/03/10 03:23 PM
Real money has been taken out of the hands of Americans ever since gold was removed from the dollar in 1934 and silver from the currency in 1965. This is disempowering in the extreme. It has made serfs, peasants, and peons of erstwhile sovereigns.
The money masters have changed all the laws to fit their feudal model. Prohibitions and regulations changed the nature of the nation. The CRIMES are in the enactment of the laws themselves, which amount to an undeclared war on the public at large. Statute law including Title 18, the U.S. Criminal Code, has criminalized vast numbers of the population and deprived them of untold treasure and liberty. Annulment anyone?
In the Common Law there are two parties in opposition, both seeking justice and competitive, non-monopolistic courts can and do work very well. As it is, the statute law is totally skewed and tergiversated (turned upside down) in favor of the State in the most shameless fashion.
But history moves, not linearly but in cycles and circles and the darkest hour is just before dawn. By self-effort, Human Action and the Grace of God the meek and innocent may again inherit the Earth. After the forthcoming calamity washes us clean that is.
Posted by Bill Ross on 09/03/10 02:42 PM
"By doing so, we can reduce all arguments to the binary form of the expropriators versus the victims of their expropriation."
This is exactly what "Mathematics of Rule" PROVES:
Click to view link
I am surprised you appear unaware of this.
Posted by Greg Colvin on 09/03/10 02:30 PM
"It is time to bring this ruse to an end. "
Do you have a plan to make this happen? And how bloody will the process be?
And hey, in the last three decades American productivity has quadrupled, while the median wage hasn't budged. So where did the money go? Mostly to the top percentile. How did they get it? Often, like Madoff, by bribery and fraud. So how are the rest of us supposed to get that stolen wealth back?
Reply from The Daily Bell
Education is key.
Posted by Liberty666 on 09/03/10 02:21 PM
profits are the reward the free market bestows on the producers who provide what the People need and want. The profits enable and motivate the producers to continue fulfilling peoples desires. It is very noble to provide for improvements in peoples standards of living, and in a free market it is all done through freedom of choice, no one forces anyonhe to do anything. And yet govts. rely on force to accomplish their aims and they are noble? HA...redistribution is theft, who punishes someone for providing things that one desires?
Posted by Clayton on 09/03/10 01:55 PM
To best improve the general publics' understanding of this issue, we should refer to "redistribution" as confiscation. We live in a paradigm of Wealth Confiscation. We must back that up with a constant reminder that the essential activity of any State, democratic or otherwise, is the confiscation of wealth.
By doing so, we can reduce all arguments to the binary form of the expropriators versus the victims of their expropriation. By the nakedness of this logic, we can overcome the resort to legalisms, ideas of some sort of Social Contract and all the sentimentality that is rampant in discussions of Justice these days.
This requires a clear, resolute and non self-contradictory understanding of Property, its origins and its just title (possession). It is on the Rock of Property that Civilization is built. As Mises pointed out, Property is almost synonymous with Civilization.
To the higher understanding of this issue, I defer to Hans Herman Hoppe, and urge those that have not yet done so, to purchase and read his book, "Democracy, the God that Failed," which is available from the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.
Posted by HERBERT JOHNSON on 09/03/10 12:49 PM
Wealth must be created before it can be distributed. when you take it from the creators, they will stop creating and everyone will be in poverty. Maybe that's what they want.
Posted by Bill Ross on 09/03/10 12:40 PM
1. the act of stealing; the wrongful (not if we claim "good" motives) taking and carrying away of the personal (no such thing as individual with rights – your purpose is to serve alleged "greater good" ) goods or property of another (it never was your property or the property of who you traded with, your very existence and ability to acquire property is dependent on the civilization we define and maintain. YOU are public property, to dispose of, as we see fit); larceny.
Posted by Mark Y on 09/03/10 12:17 PM
1. the act of stealing; the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods or property of another; larceny.
Unless one believes that the government is "god", and therefore has the right to determine who owns what, the government taking one person's property and distributing it to another person is "theft".
This is why the free market system, with its imbedded assumption of private property rights is the most moral economic system. This is also why the United States, being founded on the principles of free markets and private property rights became the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world. It also explains why, as the United States has departed from these principles, it has seen its prosperity and even its power decline.
Posted by Kenneth on 09/03/10 12:03 PM
You are so right. They are not 'Robin Hoods' but just run-of-the-
mill Hoods. If they believed in the crap they spout they would take and adhere to a vow of poverty. Instead they want to amass the wealth of the world and spend it to enrich themselves. Then only they will spend what they have for their own pleasure. They will control the world because they can buy whatever they want. Everyone else will have to get used to poverty.
Posted by Bill on 09/03/10 11:39 AM
Your lack of understanding is apparent. The issue is that the Rules of Corporate capitalism always cause the wealth to flow upward. What little trickles down flows directly back to the top. I own a corporation and see this reality all the time. It is like a monopoly game where the winners have wiped out the rest of the players but instead of ending or starting a new game, each player is given enough money to make it around the board for another round or year.
The money continues to flow to the corporations. In China, the government owns the central Bank and China is the greatest creditor nation on earth while the privatized USA is the greatest DEBTOR nation on earth.
Reagan, Bush and Bush the lessor's policies of cutting taxes and borrowing have accounted for 50 % of this mess and put more debt on a struggling middle class. Clearly the government of the USA has been bought and infiltrated by the elite and have made horrendous decisions in regards to wasteful spending but when one compares the military waste to humanitarian effort the latter is a very small percentage.