The rich owe you nothing

One of the most common assumptions made today, by those on various rungs of the economic ladder, is that the rich get rich at the expense of the poor. For example, a man whose childcare benefits have been cut might look at the businessman driving his brand new Mercedes and wonder why his taxes haven’t gone up to compensate for a welfare shortfall. A woman working as a cleaner on a low wage in a huge office might resent the CEO whose toilets she cleans, figuring that one week’s salary for him is six months’ for her.

This perception of being used or exploited by those richer is totally wrong. It’s wrong because of the false assumption that some of us somehow have a claim on the wealth of others. But it’s also obviously false from an evidential or practical point of view:

Consider an office building, the headquarters for a large company. The company is owned by a businessman, the CEO. The company manufacturers a product and sells it. It does this to make money, because money is the means by which we sustain our lives. Necessary to this process is an import division (to acquire raw materials), a construction division (to make the product), and a distribution division (to ship the product out). But a business needs more than just this. It needs a Sales department to acquire and keep customers. It needs a Procurement department, to seek out good suppliers and acquire materials at competitive prices. Is that enough? No. Computers are an irreplaceable part of any modern business, from warehouse to office – so the company must create an IT department to setup and maintain the technology throughout the site. Is that enough? No. With so many employees, the company needs to establish codes of conduct, a forum to liaise with its staff, an independent body to hear disputes and define punishment protocols and many other tasks relating to worker welfare and management: it creates a Human Resources department.

But it doesn’t stop there. The desks, the chairs, the halls, the walls and the floors need to be cleaned, so the company creates cleaning jobs. It wants the area surrounding its offices to be presentable, tidy and safe – so it employs one or more groundsmen to maintain the site. But even this isn’t enough – the company wants to protect its assets and employees, so it creates a Security department and hires guards.

Imagine how many careers and livelihoods are supported by such a company, and by extension the lives of families and friends. Consider the other businesses and jobs kept alive by an employee who can afford to purchase that extra pint, that new TV, a mobile phone, or treat his family to a nice meal in a restaurant, or day-out at the zoo, or holiday. If that jobs wasn’t yours, it would be someone else’s – or wouldn’t exist at all. Businessmen don’t create jobs to be nice or because we need them, and to pretend that they do or should is naivety and begging of the highest order.

The important fact to remember is that wealth isn’t a game of Monopoly with finite notes, houses and hotels to be fought over – wealth is created. How? By production, which is essentially the primary activity of business qua business. If a CEO’s wages were cut (by say, having to pay more in tax to the government), that money wouldn’t magically find its way into your bank account. If footballers’ wages were capped, the average salary of a nurse or doctor would not magically increase. The income of high-earners does not come out of your savings account; it is not taken from the pot you’ve set aside for your child’s upbringing and they do not base their salary on what you bring home. In other words, the wealth of the rich is that which you couldn’t have any claim to in the first place. (Actually, the only way to get someone else’s wealth is by force; if you have to use force to get money, you could have had no legitimate right to it anyway.)

In fact, it is the businessmen that create jobs in the first place. Would the average man have invented the telephone, the light bulb, fast-food, the mobile phone, the internet, the cancer-fighting drug, the aeroplane, the sky-scraper, the electron-microscope? No. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be a genius or work the wondrous every day of your life. But what you can do is take advantage of someone else’s creativity and effort by working for them and getting paid.

Consider a man who invents the ball-point pen. He creates a pen and sells the idea. He is 100% responsible for the innovation and effort and receives no more than what he can sell his creation for. The person who uses a ball-point pen however has committed precisely nothing in any form to the existence of the pen yet reaps all the benefits. As you move further away from the origin of production, the ratio of effort to benefit increases exponentially. For example, the janitor of a hospital has contributed nothing to the invention of X-Ray or MRI machines, nor did he have to attend medical school; he saves no lives and diagnoses nothing. But because the hospital exists, he has a job. The mere act of production by one man opens up opportunities for many other men who can trade as a result without any of the original effort required. And yet some think that the rich still owe them something? What more? What else? Isn’t this enough?

In reality, the rich owe the poor nothing. So should we be grateful that we have jobs? Yes, but not sycophantically. It is true that the hospital founder owes the janitor nothing – nothing more than paying him for a day’s work – and if he thinks about it, the janitor should be grateful he has a job. But at the top and the bottom or the corporate ladder the principle of interaction is the same: trade; a job was offered and accepted. You are paid for your service, and receive no more or less than this. The sooner some people stop asking for the unearned and claiming that the property and genius of others was somehow obtained at their expense, the sooner they’d be open to real and practical ways of increasing their worth to others, and thereby be paid more. Hell, they might even start their own business…

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25 Responses to “The rich owe you nothing”

  1. Jeff Langston Says:

    Certainly you have a point, but there is a fallacy there. At one point company owners, while still making more than their workers, put much of the money back into the business in the form of raises, hiring more people, upgrading the various tools being used, and more innovation. Now because there is no penalty for the business owner to take more of the surplus money generated by their business as their own salary and not to reward and provide incentive to their employees (or even to help them stem the tide against inflation and such), and because one rich business owner is not going to pump more money back into the economy that his numerous employees would if they had that extra money, you have the ever increasing spiral down that we’ve been experiencing ever since the ridiculous concept of trickle-down economics came into being.

  2. evanescent Says:

    Hi Jeff, I think the fallacy appears to be yours:

    “Now because there is no penalty for the business owner to take more of the surplus money generated by their business as their own salary and not to reward and provide incentive to their employees (or even to help them stem the tide against inflation and such),”

    But there is a penalty. If the business owner doesn’t invest sufficiently in people or equipment, his productively suffers, which means his longterm profit does too. If this wasn’t the case, why don’t company owners continuously award themselves ever-increasing salaries? Because they realise that *all* salaries, including theirs, have to be justified and within the operational profit of the business as a whole. It must be remembered that the profit of a business is the property of that business, and ultimately as with all private property, only the property owner has any rights over it. This is the essence of my article – a reminder on just who has earned what and who has rights over what.

    and because one rich business owner is not going to pump more money back into the economy that his numerous employees would if they had that extra money”

    Again, this isn’t quite true. Businesses, as businesses, make possible money in the first place – and they are the biggest “contributors” in that sense. Also, a wealthy businessman has amenities and eccentricities that the average worker can only dream of – for example, two country houses in Spain, and all of this has to be paid for.

    It is possibly true, but if so still trivial, that 100 employees on a £100 pay rise each might spend that £100,000 – and that the businessman with the extra £100,000 in his bank account might not, but is there a *duty* on people to spend simply because they can? If encouraging consumer spending is one’s aim – one should look to reduce the tax burden before calling for higher wages. Besides, the businessman might very well spend that £100k on a car, which keeps car companies in business who support the high-end low-demand sector.

    “you have the ever increasing spiral down that we’ve been experiencing ever since the ridiculous concept of trickle-down economics came into being.”

    Imagine the quality of life of the average citizen if it wasn’t for so many private individuals creating, out of nothing but their heads and the world around them, new businesses? I think you will find that it’s fiat paper money, artifical interest rates, and taxation that have always been the heaviest burden for the average person to carry – from the days of feudalism to the modern welfare state. Ironically, those most affected by tax and the standard of living, the poor, are the ones who actually “contribute” least to society in the form of taxes. Inflation and recession can be shown to be a direct result of government activity, not of production, hiring or firing.

  3. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    Boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here. How’s life? Well, I hope.

    I guess my problem with the whole post can be stated thusly: D’uh!

    Who do you know that feels the rich owe them money? I mean, simply by being wealthier than someone less wealthy, they have a personal obligation to another human to write them a check? I never felt that way. Anyone successful in business, to use your example, got there through hard work, either by creating the business in the first place, or in maintaining that business if they inherited or bought it. They deserve the fruits of their own labor. That’s capitalism.

    I don’t see the necessity for the post. Am I missing something?

    Now, if what you are alluding to is the responsibility to provide a fair share of their wealth to the community and society at large, I think that’s a far more nuanced question. It’s one we are going through quite dramatically here in the states at this very moment. Should the government increase the taxes on the wealthy in order to help reduce the public debt, in proportion to their wealth?

    While the answer to that question is more contentious, I don’t think it’s the same thing as saying the wealthy owe the less wealthy a portion of their wealth. That’s more a societal obligation, and while the country as a whole might earn indirect benefits from increased taxes, (which is across the board, meaning those benefits would accrue to both the wealthy and the poor) I don’t think you could characterize it as an unfair distribution of wealth.

    But then, maybe that’s not what you are arguing at all?

  4. Toby Selwyn Says:

    @ Spanish Inquisitor

    I’m sad to say that I speak to guys on the shop floor where I work who feel exactly like this, i.e. that the company owners owe them something. They’re quite the militant crowd, I’m afraid. Maybe it’s different in the UK from the US?

    @ Evan

    Great post. The funny thing is that, true to their flawed logic, the poor who feel this way completely reverse the picture when considering those much poorer than themselves, e.g. the starving children of Africa. They think that the modest wages they earn for cleaning an office are somehow gained at the expense of a dying child in Ethiopia, perpetuating their guilt and moral confusion. The other way of looking at it, is that they start with this guilt believing that they are living in comfort at the expense of others, and rather than bear this burden it’s easier to “transfer” the guilt to those much richer than themselves. Either way the flawed logic is exactly that, as you showed, flawed.

  5. evanescent Says:

    Hi SI, long time no see. As Tobe points out, I can only assume you haven’t encountered this type of thinking yourself, but sadly I have – all too often. Perhaps it’s a more British or European mentality, but I have seen exactly the attitude and speech alluded to in my post. I have actually heard someone say “my childcare benefits have been cut, but the rich still get to drive their 4x4s around.” When I’ve said “the money of the rich isn’t made at the expense of the poor” I’ve heard people say “yes it is!” And I think in Britain this is the attitude of most people.

  6. Mikee Says:

    The argument that is always put by statist is that it is socially dangerous for there to be a huge amount of disparity in income, not because it is morally wrong but because it is socially destabilizing. Often this phenomenon is attributed to the disappearance of the middle class in the United States.

  7. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    Cross cultural differences never cease to …well, not amaze me…but maybe keep me interested.

    Perhaps I live a sheltered life (and honestly, I don’t think I do. As a lawyer handling a diversity of matters, I see a pretty good cross section of the world) but here, across the pond, I really can’t say people actually expect the rich to write them a check. Sure, they gripe about the rich getting more privileges than they have, or not paying their fair share of taxes, or being more pretentious, but on the other hand, we also adore our celebrities, who, to a man or woman, are all rich. We are a mass of contradictions, as you well know.

    But the attitude you wrote about in your post just doesn’t seem to be one of them here. Maybe it’s because we all aspire to be rich, it’s part of the American dream, we all hope we’ll be on the other side of that divide, and when we do, we wouldn’t want the ones we left behind to stake a claim on what we got. 😉

  8. evanescent Says:

    It might be more common than you think, SI. Even the idea that the rich should pay more, simply because they are rich – is a symptom of the mentality I’m talking about, but yes I would probably agree that this isn’t the underlying culture of America, no doubt because of its historic values of individual liberty.

    I, like “true” Americans, see money as something to be pursued. It’s not a dirty word. I think socialism however breeds an attitude of envy for those with more than you, and mistrust of those with less. The socialist is always worried who’s looking over their shoulder at their bank account, whilst he looks over the shoulder of the guy in front.

  9. Dawn Says:

    This is great! I live in a town where there are a lot of people who are not working. It is really their choose not because they lost their jobs. The sad thing is how many of them get upset when their state or government benefits get lowered. I am not talking about unemployment benefits, but welfare benefits. They start to put down people who are out making a lot of money, expecting that they should be getting something from them. Unfortunately I see it often but you can’t make them understand that the only way they are entitled to more money is if they go and work for it. It is a crazy world when people think they are owed money by others without working for it. I wanted to be rich, never jealous of the rich nor did I expect anything more then a paycheck (an earned paycheck) from the rich. I decided to do something about it and start a business myself, nothing free for me!

    Great post, hope you have a wonderful day!

  10. Alex Hardman Says:

    I think maybe there is a bit more nuanced answer to this question, as discussed above. I have this mentality, but not in the sense that those with more money owe me some of it. I believe (and there is ample evidence to support this) that those with the most wealth, typically, began with the most advantages. The disparity between the top end for people starting in various social classes have lessened, but by no means disappeared. This is what is “owed”. Without these social advantages most wealthy people would never have been wealthy, and thus they should “pay back” the advantage they benefited from so more people can benefit from them in the future.

  11. Toby Selwyn Says:

    @ Alex Hardman

    We don’t all begin on a level playing field, we start our lives, venture into the world, with what our parents give us. So, a man works hard all his life in order to give his children, who he loves and values, the best possible advantages in their lives, what loving parent wouldn’t? On what grounds do you believe that anyone, the parents or the children then ‘owe’ these advantages to anyone else?

    ‘…and thus they should “pay back” the advantage they benefited from’. The word ‘back’ here implies that the advantages have come from the people to whom you now believe they should be returned, who are these people? The poor? How so, and if so, in what sense should they be paid back if not through money? What exactly would you do to see these ‘advantages’ balanced out?

    Your claim is, as you say, more nuanced, but it amounts to the same thing: a spurious claim on someone else’s property. Evanescent’s article title really does say it all – the rich owe you nothing.

  12. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I think the nuance comes from a lack of specificity, frankly. The sense that “I” owe “you”, or that “he” owes “me”, simply because one is rich and the other is not, is patently ludicrous, which is where my “D’uh” response comes from. On an individual basis, the rich owe the poor nothing.

    It’s in a collective, societal sense however that I think the rich DO owe the poor. Not from an obligatory sense, but from a moral sense. If the collective consensus is that the rich should pay a greater share of taxes, which will benefit everyone (including the rich) then in that sense, they should not complain if their wealth is “taken” and redistributed. Additionally, they should feel the social pressure of charitable giving, (and to their credit, most morally correct rich actually do contribute a significant share of their wealth to charity. Look at Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or George Soros).

    There is also that sense that they became rich only by having the wealth of the lower classes redistributed upwards through the individual fortunes of capitalism. Do they as individuals have an obligation to give it “back”? Clearly, no. Do they as a collective class have that obligation?

    In that last question is where the argument is.

    What if I win a $200 million lottery? Do I owe it to some less fortunate than I to give some of it back? No. Did I win that through a redistribution of small, incremental payments from people less wealthy than I now am? Yes, much like the Robber Barons accumulating their wealth by using the incremental labor of the laboring class. Should I give some it it back via a disproportionate tax, or by setting up a charitable foundation? Being who I am, I would not resent the former, and would probably have no problem with the latter, once I made sure my family was comfortable.

  13. Sergio Says:

    @Spanish Inquisitor:

    You appear to be equivocating between forced redistribution through taxation and non-coerced, voluntary actions taken by poorer individuals to “transfer” wealth up to the rich in the form of economic trading–the free exchange of value for value.

    Also, it appears that you implicitly endorse the misconception that wealth is a zero-sum game – that in order for the rich to get richer, the poor must get poorer. Said another way, the rich only make their money at the expense of the poor. Before going further, is this a fair approximation of your opinion on the subject?

    I don’t understand your reference to the “Robber Barons” and their (who are they?) accumulation of wealth by using “incremental labor of the laboring class”. Your statement is presented as a matter of fact, not opinion, which leads me to believe you must have a more thorough understanding of those circumstances than I do. Were the laborers forced, at the point of a gun, or through fraudulent means (ie: blackmail) to work for these Barons? Were these laborers akin to slave laborers? Were they not paid a wage commensurate with the “incremental” labor they contributed to the final product?

    Finally, you make reference, on a number of occasions, to the “collective” will. Can you please elaborate? What is “the collective”, who decides what its “will” is, and how do you justify the morality of its actions? Simple majority rule?

  14. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    Sergio

    Equivocating? No, Those are just two basic examples of acceptable, society-wide means of re-distributing wealth. As I probably have not made clear, I have a hard time even figuring out where the OP comes from, because the attitude expressed (about individuals who feel a rich person should just give his money to a poor person, because they are “owed” it) has never been within my realm of experience. So I’m thinking that perhaps it’s being confused with the prevalent attitude (over here anyway) that the rich should not resent disproportionate taxation for the good of the whole, and could also be more philanthropically inclined. The latter is actually admired.

    At least, I’m trying to understand if that’s what I’m reading. Perhaps that’s the nuance mentioned by Alex?

    Also, it appears that you implicitly endorse the misconception that wealth is a zero-sum game …Before going further, is this a fair approximation of your opinion on the subject?

    No. I’m not an economist, but I’m sure the creation of wealth is far more complicated than that.

    I don’t understand your reference to the “Robber Barons”…

    You’re not American? Check here. Just a shorthand way of saying people who accumulated massive wealth by exploiting the lack of societal safeguards we take for granted now, and which arose as a direct result of such exploitation. Things like child labor laws, minimum wage, trade unions and the 40 hour work week.

    Were the laborers forced, at the point of a gun, or through fraudulent means (ie: blackmail) to work for these Barons?

    No, but there’s coercion and then there’s coercion. The end result is still the same.

    Finally, you make reference, on a number of occasions, to the “collective” will. Can you please elaborate?

    The collective will of the people as represented in a democracy. Not perfect, but it’s still valid. We have a representative democracy over here, and our elected representatives seems to be doing a piss poor job of representing the collective will I refer to, but it’s all we have at the moment.

    Hope that helps. I’m not the best writer in the world when it comes to getting my thoughts in print.

  15. Sergio Says:

    Spanish Inquisitor:

    I’m an ex-pat from the Free Peoples of Canuckistan (also known as Canada 😛 ).

    Re: equivocation: you see no difference between individuals voluntarily making purchases with their earned wealth and governments using the threat of force to take (tax) wealth from the rich as forms of “re-distribution”? I would think the presence of force in the latter when compared to the former would be a limiting difference to make such a comparison flawed in principle. No?

    You may not be an economist, but your earlier statements strongly insinuate that you hold the opinion that the “rich class” only succeeds to the extent that they can “exploit” the “poor laboring class”. Is this not your opinion?

    Re: Robber Barons: I must apologize – I knew the term, but was ignorantly attempting to flesh out your point more before responding. I find the “Robber Baron short hand” a misrepresentation and particularly revisionist account of the emerging and changing circumstances of the time. All of the examples you’ve referenced have, after some considerable reading, demonstrated to me that the historical accounts you’ve likely been taught in school may be “popular” but certainly not factual. I don’t expect you to take my word for it though. If you’re interested, you’ll research it – or you won’t.

    The point I will make however is that your use of both the Robber Baron term, and the ideas that support its use, are a further indication that you hold the opinion that money can only be made by “exploiting” the poor in one form or another.

    Coercion is coercion. Are you suggesting that the laborers’ “desire” for the wages to improve their quality of life was used against them? Again, in the absence of force or fraud – how can you argue coercion existed then, or even today?

    You wrote:
    “The collective will of the people as represented in a democracy. Not perfect, but it’s still valid. We have a representative democracy over here, and our elected representatives seems to be doing a piss poor job of representing the collective will I refer to, but it’s all we have at the moment.”

    America, technically, is most certainly not a “representative democracy”. It is a constitutionally limited republic, in which it employs the use of representative democracy to elect the leaders of the republic – to exercise those enumerated powers granted to them by the governed… and nothing more.

    Pure democracy is nothing more than a tyranny of the majority – and something to be feared and fought. If 51% of the population voted to have ever immigrant hung – would that automatically make that action “valid” or “moral” – simply by virtue of the process by which that decision was made? I would hope your response is: “of course not”. Which begs the question – if majority rule isn’t sufficient to determine the morality of an action – what is?

    Attempting to swing us back to the points of the OP and your comments: if the “collective consensus” (51%) isn’t a sufficient basis to evaluate the appropriateness of an action – what is the principle on which you stand on to support your opinion that rich “collectively” owe the rest of society?

  16. Toby Selwyn Says:

    @ SI

    Just a shorthand way of saying people who accumulated massive wealth by exploiting the lack of societal safeguards we take for granted now, and which arose as a direct result of such exploitation. Things like child labor laws, minimum wage, trade unions and the 40 hour work week.

    This is where I would respectfully argue against you – I oppose those ‘societal safeguards’. For example, I outlines my objection to the minimum wage here. This is the government encroaching on private property rights.

    No, but there’s coercion and then there’s coercion.

    Sorry, feels like I’m just plugging my new site but I wrote about trade here. There is nothing coercive about people choosing to trade freely. And if a business man has a brilliant, innovative idea and hires a thousand labourers to help him mass produce his product, he is not exploiting them or coercing them in anyway. This is why no taxation, redistributive or otherwise, is needed.

  17. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    Sergio ol’ buddy, I think you’re reading far more into my comments than I intended or said. But I’ll play for a little bit, then we need to end all this extrapolation.

    What’s with this “threat of force” re: tax? You live in society, you pay tax. Yes, if you don’t, there are penalties. If you don’t like the penalties or the tax, move somewhere where there are no taxes. Like Mars.

    …but your earlier statements strongly insinuate…

    Perhaps to you. I insinuate nothing. At least not intentionally. Insinuation is in the eye of the beholder.

    ….that the historical accounts you’ve likely been taught in school may be “popular” but certainly not factual. I don’t expect you to take my word for it though. If you’re interested, you’ll research it – or you won’t.

    You’ll have to clarify that. I’m not sure what you’re assuming I was taught in school, though the short Wikipedia link glosses over it. When you refer to my “examples” do you mean the ones that i claimed came about as a result of the lack of societal safeguards? The minimum wage, trade unions, etc? I’m unclear.

    My history background doesn’t rise to the level of, say a history professor at a University, though I have some background in it. But I’m unclear what history you find revisionist.

    ….you hold the opinion that money can only be made by “exploiting” the poor in one form or another.

    I’ve already said I don’t. There is a historical basis to support some truth to that, though, in some contexts, (i.e Robber Barons) but to claim I think that’s the only basis for generating wealth is ludicrous, and frankly just a bit overreaching based on the little bit I wrote above.

    It’s not necessarily exploitation of the poor to have vast numbers of the populace invest tiny portions of their income into a lottery system that then pays a huge payout to one individual, immediately making him rich, but you can’t deny that in fact it IS a form of redistribution of wealth from, for the most part, the less wealthy to actually create an instance of concentrated wealth. There are people who might even argue that it is an exploitation of the human psychological phenomenon we call gambling, something the poor are more susceptible to as a result of their lack of wealth, something that is for the most part against their better interests. Frankly, I’m not informed enough to discuss it. But it’s a good tangent for another post.

    Are you suggesting that the laborers’ “desire” for the wages to improve their quality of life was used against them? Again, in the absence of force or fraud – how can you argue coercion existed then, or even today?

    I would tend to think that in many cases it’s not just a desire to improve the quality of life, it’s the base need to survive that locked many people into a life-long inability to rise out of their meager existence. It’s not desire that caused many to live and die in the coal mines of Northeast PA (where my family came from). For many, it’s work or die. Desire has nothing to do with that choice. And the coal companies knew that, and reinforced that dependence with low wages, union busters, long hours, Pinkerton strike busters, and forced use of company stores, which could validly be classified as exploitation.

    Does that mean that’s how all wealth is made? No. But there were a lot of Robber Barons who’s families to this day have so much wealth they spend most of their time giving it away.

    America, technically, is most certainly not a “representative democracy”. It is a constitutionally limited republic, in which it employs the use of representative democracy to elect the leaders of the republic – to exercise those enumerated powers granted to them by the governed… and nothing more.

    Whatever. Semantics. You asked me how I got my sense of the collective will. I think it’s obvious. If you live on an island all by yourself, the collective will is irrelevant, and non-existent. But that’s not reality. In this reality, we live in a communal society, and we have to work together for the benefit of society as a whole. Consensus. If one doesn’t like the idea that 51% of the collective will can force you to live according to their ideas of what’s owed to society, one’s choice is to go along with it or leave.

    But this is getting way past the OP.

    Pure democracy is nothing more than a tyranny of the majority

    Yep. Lucky for humanity that pure democracy exists in idea form only, i.e it doesn’t exist.

    …what is the principle on which you stand on to support your opinion that rich “collectively” owe the rest of society?

    I’m not a philosopher, so the principle eludes me. But let’s take a real world example to illustrate what I was trying to understand in the OP.

    The US right now has an economic problem. We’re spending more money than we take in. One of the reasons is because our previous President, through the help of a Republican (representative) Congress, instituted tax cuts across the board that primarily lowered the tax rates on the wealthy. A decade of low revenues and we end up borrowing like crazy. It’s obvious to many that we should adjust those rates upward to help reduce the deficit, but the representatives in Congress who are in the pockets of the wealthy are fighting that. If those representatives could be persuaded that we have no choice but to extract more of the wealth from the wealthy via taxes, and only 51% of the population agree, then we should in fact increase their taxes, for the benefit of the country as a whole. Whether they like it or not. Whether 49% of the people they represent disagree. That’s doesn’t mean I think they “owe” anything. It just means that I think it’s fair and just that we benefit the country via that means.

    Which is all I meant in response to the OP.

  18. Sergio Says:

    Spanish:

    I commented because you were asking questions. I have no desire to engage in a barbed tête-à-tête with you.

    I feel compelled however, to comment, ever so briefly, on a few observations.

    You may not believe your comments and opinions are loaded with unchecked premises and assumptions that you simply accept as the prevailing “common sense” – nevertheless, they are. Ideas, whether you acknowledge them or not, form the underlying philosophical foundation that governs such statements as: “for the collective good” or “social justice” or “economic coercion”. In these cases, it is a form of subjectivism, specifically, egalitarianism rooted in further in the idea that the “collective” takes precedence, in all matters, before the individual. If you choose not to critically analyze your “common sense” wisdom, and prefer to give it no more thought than the effort it takes to toss it out, that’s your decision. However, your assumptions and the ideas that govern them are there, whether you perceive them or not.

    Finally – I live, and have lived, in many places with no direct taxation of any kind. I currently live in the Cayman Islands. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that society doesn’t collapse, roads continue to be serviced, and everyone is generally happy and content. Impossible eh?

    I leave it to the more articulate and interested on here to continue the debate!

    As always though, I appreciate the thoughts.

    Cheers

    Sergio

  19. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    I live, and have lived, in many places with no direct taxation of any kind.

    Is the operative word there “direct”?

    Because i can’t imagine that the community of the Caymans is able to function without money coming from its citizens. Unless the offshore banking industry is so lucrative that it underwrites the existence of the citizenry.

  20. Sergio Says:

    Yes. The government functions through indirect, or rather, consumption duties and fees associated with the specific economic industries that operate on the island.

    Insofar as taxation goes, however; there are no mechanisms available to the government to “redistribute” wealth to so-called “progressive” taxation schemes that are the mainstay of contemporary western civilization these days. And yet somehow, they bounce along, enjoying a high quality of life and little strife.

  21. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    But don’t some economic systems work well in small isolated settings, but not so well in larger more complicated and interdependent settings?

    Like pure democracy. It (theoretically) works well when it’s manageable and the numbers are small. Like in a commune. Grow just a little and it stops working.

  22. Sergio Says:

    With respect to economic systems: I disagree.

    With respect to pure democracy in a commune – what definition of “it works” are you assuming? If 99 members vote to sacrifice the 1 for the good of the commune… is that it “working” morally and effectively? Do the ends justify the means?

  23. Spanish Inquisitor Says:

    Well, we can get knee deep in definitions. What do you define “sacrifice ” to mean.

    If 99 commune members vote that 1 should leave because he seems to have a pedophile problem, they’ve “sacrificed” him for the good of the commune, especially the children. That’s both moral and effective.

    If they vote to simply have him killed and butchered for meat, then again, it might depend on the circumstances. If they were the only people on an Island with no food, that might be moral,or it might not. If 10 will die if he’s not eaten, etc. etc. If they did it simply because he looks tasty, that’s another issue.

    I always hated ethics, though. There’s never a black and white answer.

    As for the Caymans’ economic system, do you think it could be transplanted to a country the size of the US? And still have everyone “bounce along, enjoying a high quality of life and little strife”?

    I’m not being facetious. I know very little about the Caymans other than that it is reputedly a haven for offshore banking, so I’m curious (yellow).

  24. Sergio Says:

    I define “sacrifice” to mean any instance where the individual rights of an individual are violated. Your example of a pedophile being banished certainly wouldn’t qualify – as, presumably, to be a pedophile, he must have first violated the individual rights of a child. Retaliation against those that would initiate force against others is – for reasons that I don’t have the patience to explore here, though our host has done in numerous blog entries – is a moral and proper use of force.

    I couldn’t glean your response to my question: how do you define what “works” insofar as pure democracy in a commune means? Either 51% voting (pure democracy) to act is appropriate in everything it votes on, or it isn’t. You can’t say it works “some times” and not others.

    In a constitutionally limited republic, like America is “theoretically” – the democratically elected officials have no power to violate the rights of any individual. They can only act to uphold those rights. Clearly this isn’t how the US operates today, but that’s a subject for another debate.

    Ethics is black and white. The difficulty is first identifying the black versus the white – which, tragically, in our complex and interdependent society is a very difficult task indeed. I will not attempt to debate this point with you. If you’re at all curious why I maintain such conviction on this point – I highly recommend checking out some Objectivist literature. Evanescent makes a number of great pieces that flesh out the philosophy in a way that I simply can’t do here. Or, you can dismiss me without another thought as an obvious nutter. I’m indifferent. 🙂

    As for the Caymans – it’s not perfect, and has many fascist/socialist elements that I find distasteful. Nevertheless, its system of taxation is far more “fair” – within the context of individual rights – than is any direct taxation system. As such, it can certainly work, if implemented very slowly, and very carefully, in the US.

    Government influence and interference in the lives of Americans is like heroine to an addict. No rational person would ever advocate simply cutting the addict off at the knees and yelling “sink or swim!”. Nevertheless, the addiction is unhealthy and must be curtailed slowly. Likewise, individual Americans could adapt to a slow reduction in various government services – with the shortfall being picked up by the private sector.

    The caveat being – that the private sector relationship with your politicians needs to end entirely. Politicians should have no power to doll out favours to the well connected, or to blindly ignore the flagrant abuse of individual rights that many businesses may choose to engage in if they’re able to pay off the right people.

    Many look around and can’t imagine a significant reduction in the government. This is a problem of imagination, not of possibility. In my opinion of course.

  25. richard Says:

    OLOUTELT RIGHT IF YOU WANT TO BE RICH NO ONE S STOPPING YOU BUT YOU NED TO PUT THE HARD WORK IN, SIMPLE. t’s the way it’s always been, work hard these rioters are lazy cant be bothered and are jealous coz they can’t be bothered to do the work like the rest of us. Kids out there where’s the paents or guardians??? Totally agree ith the first entry. totally


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