Thursday, March 6, 2014

Would the Founders Really Support Bill Maher's Call for a "Maximum Wage"?---PART 2

PART 2: Continued from yesterday's post.

In Why Thomas Jefferson Favored Profit Sharing, David Cay Johnston moves on to John Adams:

The second president, John Adams, feared "monopolies of land" would destroy the nation and that a business aristocracy born of inequality would manipulate voters, creating "a system of subordination to all... The capricious will of one or a very few" dominating the rest. Unless constrained, Adams wrote, "the rich and the proud" would wield economic and political power that "will destroy all the equality and liberty, with the consent and acclamations of the people themselves."

There is a crucial difference between economic and political power. Adams definitely seemed to understand the danger of politically powerful rich. By "system of subordination," Adams is obviously thinking of a political system. The very principle of a government as protector of inalienable individual rights is designed precisely to prevent the capricious political domination by the wealthy few over the rest. Here's Alexander Hamilton:

Alexander Hamilton, who championed manufacturing and banking as the first Treasury secretary, also argued for widespread ownership of assets, warning in 1782 that, "whenever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbors, they will abuse it."

And George Washington:

George Washington, nine months before his inauguration as the first president, predicted that America "will be the most favorable country of any kind in the world for persons of industry and frugality, possessed of moderate capital, to inhabit." And, he continued, "it will not be less advantageous to the happiness of the lowest class of people, because of the equal distribution of property."

Note the emphasis in those block quotes, which I added. It's clear, even from these quotes cherry-picked by a champion of Obama's war on "severe and growing inequality," that the Founders sought to protect the individual's earned wealth, not politically enhanced fortunes, and to protect the rights of all, not just the rich. Hamilton's quote is a perfect description of statism: What power of the "super-rich," divorced from political power, could match the power that government regulatory agencies wield over our property? Washington's hope reflects the actual nature of capitalism, under which all individuals would enjoy the freedom and rights-protections to flourish according to his "industry and frugality," without fear of being subject to "discretionary power . . . lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbors"—i.e., rich men wielding political power.

These quotes are consistent with the Founders fear of politically begotten riches. What would they say of the great fortunes created by building great businesses? Even Johnston acclaims the industrialists that many historians denigrate as "robber barons":

[Joseph R.] Blasi and his co-authors [of The Citizen's Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy] show that in the late 19th century, paying workers a share of profits helped build the fortunes of many of the most successful businessmen. John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, George Eastman of Eastman Kodak, William Cooper Procter of Procter & Gamble and grain merchant Charles A. Pillsbury all used profit-sharing to attract the best workers, discourage unions, reduce turnover and give employees a greater incentive to make their businesses prosper. "They did it, for sure, out of self-interest," Blasi says, "but it was an enlightened self-interest that benefitted society as a whole."

Nowhere do the Founders call for forced government redistribution of wealth. In fact, in 2001, President Obama himself noted that the American constitution doesn't allow for forced wealth redistribution. Where does one find any evidence that the Founding Fathers would endorse a political class with the discretionary power to limit "industry," or productive achievement, by way of "maximum wage" laws or other limits on earnings? (Even if some would, it wouldn't make it right.) In fact, the whole of the constitution is designed to limit political, not economic, power—by protecting individual rights, including property rights. The Founders way of preventing "domination" by those who accumulate "unmerited" riches is through political equality; or equal protection of rights, including property rights, under the law.

These days, the "1%" is the scapegoat for every societal ill. From the alleged "gilded age" of Rockefeller and Carnegie to what ,modern Leftists deride as the "new gilded age" of Gates and Jobs, the great capitalist fortunes pale into insignificance when compared to the untold tens of trillions of dollars of economic dynamism that the building of those fortunes ignited.

Maher, cheered on by an audience whose reaction has the quality of a mob cheering a lynching, ridicules certain billionaires for daring to fight back against the bigots who (implicitly or not) equate their productive achievements with the thieving rich of old. Maher's loatheful diatribe plays well to the feelings of envy and resentment toward the economically successful person that festers in the self-described "99%-er"—a sensibility that Ayn Rand identified as Hatred of the Good for Being the Good. For these hateful mentalities, "the 1%" stands in their minds as the symbol for any individual with more wealth than the next guy. The simple fact of someone making more is ipso-facto a justification for tagging him as a 1%-er, and thus hating him for it. The crusade against the "top 1%" is a crusade against achievement as such.

Maher ridicules billionaire Tom Perkins for "saying the richest 1% are so persecuted in America, they feel like Jews in Nazi Germany." Perkins's hyperbole aside, he's right that "the rich" are persecuted in America, especially since Obama came to office. I offer, as exhibit A, "Bill Maher's Excellent Commentary on Income Inequality"

Ayn Rand once said:

Every ugly, brutal aspect of injustice toward racial or religious minorities is being practiced toward businessmen.. . . Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

Can anyone deny that today's "progressive" war on the rich is essentially no different than old-fashioned bigotry? The "1%"—the top of the business pyramid—is taking on the role of scapegoat in Obama's America—an America oozing toward dictatorship.

Related Reading:

Hank Reardon Answers Bill Maher's Call for a "Maximum Wage" Law

Would the Founders Really Support Bill Maher's Call for a "Maximum Wage"?---PART 1

The Left’s Egalitarian Trap (and Why Republicans Must Not Step In)

Obama's Corrupt "Equality" Campaign and the 99/1 Premise

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