Friday, January 16, 2015

Why Don’t Most Americans Get that Government Wealth Redistribution is Theft?

If you assault your neighbor with a gun, take his wealth, and put it in your own pocket, it is theft. That’s uncontroversial. So why do most Americans not understand that when government officials pass laws to assault your neighbor with a gun, take his wealth, and “redistribute” it into someone else’s (even your) pocket, it is not the same thing—theft.

Don Watkins provides an answer over at the Ayn Rand Institute blog, Voices for Reason:

Economically, we are taught to view wealth as a social product, not an individual creation, and the person from whom wealth is “redistributed” is thus one who got an unequal share of “society’s” resources. Morally, we are taught that a person’s need entitles him to support by others and so, as Saint Ambrose put it, “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.”

So is wealth redistribution stealing? You bet it is. But to see that is not easy. It requires grasping that wealth is created by individuals and morally belongs to those individuals, regardless of who claims to need it more — and that requires the willingness to examine (or reexamine) some of the deepest issues in economics and philosophy.

The economic explanation is a manifestation of collectivism, the view that the focus of moral concern is the group, not the individual. The moral explanation is a manifestation of altruism, the ethical theory that holds that self-sacrifice for the unearned benefit of others is the essence of moral action, and the underlying cause of collectivism.

Ayn Rand observed that “America’s inner contradiction was the altruist-collectivist ethics.” Americans’ private/public forced wealth redistribution dichotomy is another manifestation of that inner contradiction. If America is to be restored to its original conception embodied in the Declaration of Independence—which enabled America to almost reach the status of a fully free, moral society—her people will have to rectify that contradiction. As Rand observed:

Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights. One cannot combine the pursuit of happiness with the moral status of a sacrificial animal.

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle


Steve D said...

answer has two parts, one economic, one moral. ‘
There is also a third part, psychological. People shy away from the conclusion that redistribution is theft because the consequences of that view are profoundly frightening to them. It would mean overturning everything they’ve learned, turning their society upside down and starting almost from scratch.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Excellent point, Steve