Attacking the Rich
June 19, 2003
Whenever someone, usually a
Republican, proposes a tax cut, someone else, usually a Democrat, will
rise to accuse him of “favoring the rich.” We’re hearing a lot of this demagogy
lately. I wish it would stop; or rather — since it won’t stop — I wish people
would think about what it implies.
point out, quite rightly, that people who pay more taxes are bound to get higher
refunds. By the Democrats’ logic, tax rates should never be reduced unless
people with lower incomes — who already pay very little in taxes — benefit as
much as people with higher incomes, enviously described as “the rich.” Socialism
must be ratcheted into the tax system.
Only socialism — a
full leveling of incomes — would meet the Democrats’ implied (but never quite
acknowledged) standard of fairness. Anything else “favors the rich.”
But why is socialism “fair”? Why is it “unfair” that some people are
richer than others? Is it also “unfair” that America is so much richer than
Ethiopia? In Ethiopia the poor starve; in America the poor are apt to be
overweight. Wouldn’t it be “fairer” to have a global state to make sure incomes
are equal all over the world? Why do the Democrats artificially confine their
principles to one country?
that have adopted socialism have only impoverished their populations, which
suggests there may be something unfair about socialism itself. It certainly
never achieves its proclaimed goals. Even the Democrats realize this by now,
which is why they stop short of calling for all-out socialism, preferring
piecemeal socialist measures under other names. Yet they never specify a limit
beyond which taxation ceases to be fair.
Put it this way: At
what point would Bill Gates be unfairly taxed? Would it be unfair to take 50,
75, 90 per cent of his earnings? How do you decide?
You can’t. Once you agree that the state has a right to force people to
pay it, there is no limit. The real question is this: Where does the state get
the right to force Bill Gates to pay it a single dime?
You’d think someone
might raise this question in a country as heavily taxed as this one. But almost
nobody does. Even the Republicans agree in principle that the state has an
inherent right to tax. President Bush thinks it should never take more than a
third of anyone’s income, but that’s an arbitrary figure.
Taxation is wrong
in principle. Taxes are moneys forcibly taken from some people for the benefit
of other people. The pretense that the benefits are equally shared by everyone —
“public goods” — won’t bear analysis. It’s merely a ruse to make it sound as if
the state is impartially benevolent. Does this describe any politician you know
of? Doesn’t real-world politics mean promising special treatment to specific
interests in return for political support? Favoritism is inseparable from
To complain that a
free economy favors the rich is like complaining that free speech favors the
eloquent. The Republican argument that lower taxes will “stimulate the economy”
is true but irrelevant. The real case for lowering taxes — or better yet,
abolishing taxes altogether — is that it will free the individual. “The economy”
should be the aggregate of free exchanges, not something governed or manipulated
by the power of the state.
But how could we
even have a state without taxes? The answer is that we couldn’t — at least not
the all-powerful kind of state we have now, which totally depends on taking
enormous quantities of private wealth. That in itself is an excellent reason for
getting rid of the taxing power.
As long as the
state has unlimited taxing power, we are in danger of totalitarian rule. It’s
amazing that the American people ever surrendered such power to the Federal
Government, and its repeal is long overdue.
and politically vulnerable, the rich are an easy target for the expanding state.
They can be used as an excuse for the state to claim powers which can later be
used against everyone else too. The income tax was originally aimed at high
incomes only; today it takes a huge part of middle incomes as well.
is simple. Whenever you hear a politician attack “the rich,” you may safely
assume that his real target is someone else. Namely, you.
Joe Sobran's Biography.
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