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. Were hearing a lot of this
demagogy lately. I wish it would stop; or rather since it
wont stop I wish people would think about what it implies.
Republicans often 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
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. Wouldnt 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?
The governments 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?
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?
Youd 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 anyones income, but thats 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 wont bear analysis.
Its merely a ruse to make it sound as if the state is impartially
benevolent. Does this describe any politician you know of? Doesnt
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
But how could we even have a
state without taxes? The answer is that we couldnt 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. Its
amazing that the American people ever surrendered such power to the
Federal Government, and its repeal is long overdue.
Always unpopular 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.
The lesson is simple. Whenever
you hear a politician attack the rich, you may safely assume
that his real target is someone else. Namely, you.