My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for the ‘Distribution of Wealth’ Category

Property or People

with 24 comments

     Are people property?  It would seem that the answer to that was determined in the United States during and just after the Civil War.  The United States determined that nobody could own another person as property.

     If a person is property at all, and that is a big if, then she or he is the property only of himself or herself.  How could it be otherwise?  I would suggest that one aspect of our survival instinct is that our life and person are in our hands to do with as we wish.  The fact that I have a will seems to entitle me naturally to use it.  The fact that I can reason suggests that I have the capability to determine what is best for me, which implies that I have the right to do so.

     I have worked for two organizations whose leaders liked to tell the employees that our people are our greatest resource.  Huh?  I always found that insulting.  It is dehumanizing.  A piece of paper or an electric current is a resource; I am not.  In that sentence who are the people and who are the our?  It seems to mean that the lowly workers (“our people”)  are tools to be used by the elite employers.  The possessive pronoun could imply that the workers are owned by the leaders.  At the very least, it is an insensitive and insulting thing to say.  Especially when one of the two organizations calls everyone, from the president on down, a member of the organization.

     People are sovereign over their lives and persons.  In terms of personhood, we are all, with very few exceptions, equal.  Those people who are incapacitated are still fully human–fully persons–in my book, and the help that they require is actually needed to preserve their sovereignty as persons, not to undermine it.

     My view on this matter influences my view on other issues.  For example, both abortion and taxation are related to it. 

     Induced abortion treats the fetus as the property of the woman–to do with as she wishes.  Hardly anyone would argue that a woman can do anything she pleases with her child after it is born, because we recognize the right to life and the right to safety of the baby.  However a few moments and a few inches before it is born, that same baby is vulnerable to a mother’s “right” to dispose of it, according to current law in the United States.

     Taxation for the purpose of redistributing income treats people as property.  I’m not referring to taxes used to pay for services agreed upon by the people, such as police protection and bridges.  I’m referring to the taking of wealth from one person and giving it to another person.  Only if we operate under the assumption that a person, and his wealth, are the property of the collective (the people who want the money), can we justify such an act.  Unders such an assumption, you are not your own and the assets that you have acquired are not your own.  They belong to the state and can be confiscated by the state as it chooses and give way by the state as it chooses.

     This post is about fundamental principles.  No matter how much you think the wealthy should be taxed, you are basically saying that what other people have belongs to you, and that you have the right to take it from them and use it as you please.  I object.

     What’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is mine.  I’ll be glad to share what I have, and I hope that you are, too.  However, I will never concede that you have the right to take what is mine or that I have the right to take what is yours.  I am a person, I am not your property. 

     Neither are you my property.

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Written by ambrosianideas

August 7, 2010 at 3:25 am

The Distribution of Wealth

with 2 comments

     I will be the first one to admit that the world’s resources are unevenly distributed.  A more accurate way to say it is that people are unevenly distributed.  On one end of the spectrum is a person born into a wealthy family in an area where it is easy to make a living.  On the other end is a person born into a poor family where there is hardly any opportunity at all.  That situation stinks.

     However, there is no point in blaming anyone for that situation.  If one believes in God, I suppose you could lay the blame for the disparity at God’s feet.  Otherwise, you have nobody to blame.  There’s no evil king of the world who dictates where people live or who is going to be born where.  There is no cabal that decided that certain people would be born on Fifth Avenue while other people are born in Harlem.

     All sorts of historical events put people where they are in the world today.  Nobody has control over where they are born or over the socio-economic status of their parents and their extended family.  If a person is born to a farming family in Mexico, that’s the hand that he has been dealt–just as much by fate as a poker player’s hand is dealt to him.

     People do have choice later in their life.  I know a man from El Salvador.  He came to America for what he considers a better life.  He became a physical therapist and works at the center where my son is having therapy for his knee.  It wasn’t easy for him to immigrate or to work his way through school.  I admire him very much.  At the optical center where my daughters got their new glasses, I met a man from Ghana with virtually the same story.  I was pleased to congratulate him when his soccer team beat the United States team in the World Cup tournament.

     When people talk about uneven distribution of resources or uneven distribution of wealth, I am dumbfounded.  They seem to be under the impression that there is somebody who sits over a big store of resources or money, as though it is a giant apple pie, and decides how much to give each person.  This imaginary pie server gave Donald Trump a great big piece of the pie and gave my acquaintances from El Salvador and Ghana just a tiny little crumb.  Then they say that things are “unfair.”  If somebody is giving out money, then it is unfair for that person to give it out in unequal amounts, all other things being equal.

     Wealth is not a giant pie in some magical pantry.  Wealth must be created by people.  Oprah Winfrey created wealth from her talent as a talk show host.  Bill Gates created wealth from his technological skill.  They did not sit around waiting for somebody to dish them up a piece of the mythical pie.  They made their own pies, and by lots of ingenuity and lots of hard work, they made some very big pies.  Both of them have cheerfully shared their pies with people who did not have as much.  I admire them for that.  However, I do not admire anyone who believes that they somehow owed it to others to share their wealth.  If it was owed, then the value of their donations goes down.  What makes their philanthropy so admirable is that they voluntarily chose to share even when nobody was compelling them to do so.

      One could argue that Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, among others,  should “give back.”  Perhaps they feel that way themselves.  For my part, I would have preferred that they charge people a whole lot less for their products in the first place.  I would have been happy to pay less for my Microsoft programs.  I don’t watch Oprah Winfrey, but I suspect that her sponsors would have been happy to pay less, and their customers might have enjoyed the cost savings on those products.  (I did enjoy Oprah’s acting in the The Color Purple.)  After all, did either one of them need billions of dollars?

     Some folks believe that it would be a good thing to even things up.  President Obama, when he was running for president, told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to spread the wealth around.  There is so much wrong with that goal, and it is so obviously wrong that I cannot understand how anyone could support it.

     I understand the desire to help those in need.  I have felt the desire and have acted on it–at a greater percentage than many of our politicians who espouse “helping the poor.”  As I wrote above, I think it stinks that such huge disparities exist in the world between the haves and the have-nots.

     There are only two ways to make things even, or closer to even.  One is by people voluntarily sharing what they have.  The other is by people being forced to give away what they have. 

     The problem with forcing people to share, is that somebody has to do the forcing.  There can be no forced redistribution of wealth without somebody doing the forcing, and who has the right to do that?  The state has the right to tax people to pay the President and his cabinet, to pay for interstate roads, to build office buildings for members of Congress, and to meet a whole host of legitimate expenses.  In essence it is “the people” contributing toward their own government.  However, the state has no right to take people’s money for the purpose of handing it out to other people.

     If a man in a mask demands money from a bank, we call it a crime.  If a man in a suit votes to confiscate your money to give away, we call it a tax.  Essentially there is no difference.  One of them looks more respectable, but it amounts to the same thing, morally speaking.

Written by ambrosianideas

July 29, 2010 at 2:52 am