by Rod D. Martin
September 23, 2010

Dear _______:

There is a place for regulation, albeit not necessarily with the specific regulations under which we live.  Adam Smith himself said that never do two businessmen so much as meet together in a pub without their conversation turning to the restraint of trade; and so we institute governments in no small part to defend capitalism (which is to say, liberty) from those (frequently big businessmen) who would use their accumulated wealth and power to wrongfully crush the opportunity of others.

Nevertheless, that has nothing to do with the point at hand, at which I simply marvel.

“The problem with excessive ‘legacy’ wealth is too many trust fund babies who contribute nothing because of their inherited wealth… some taxation for the benefit of a society that made the wealth possible is certainly reasonable. Why is it OK to tax the fruits of labor at a rate high than one earns ‘clipping coupons’ while earning nothing… what is wrong with restoring the tax rates on the very wealthy to pre-Bush tax cut rates?”

I doubt you mean it this way — I suspect you are simply speaking in the terms we have all become accustomed to after years of immersion in the framework our media, academe and political leadership (in both parties) constantly repeat — but have you really thought about what you are saying?  Because when you say “why is it okay”, what you’re really saying is “why is it okay for someone to make more than me?”  And that is just basest envy.  Why should these people keep what is theirs? Because it is not yours or mine to take!

By what right do you — or I, or an electoral mob — get to determine that someone may have x but not x+1?  Is not the essence of freedom equality of opportunity?  If government should deny me the crack pipe or the right to drive 300 mph or whatever else government might forbid, I at least have the certainty that this is denied equally to all:  but you would have government EXPRESSLY make us UNequal:  in the name of a “fairness” you cannot define (but which Moses called “covetousness” and “theft”), you would say that for some it is okay to keep the fruits of their labors, but for others they must give up more and more, be regulated more and more, lose privileges given to others more and more, presumably — if the logic of the Democratic Party be followed, since the top rate it has previously imposed on Americans was 90% — until the successful is reduced to a servile state, and until he would be better served by living on the welfare all this confiscation pays for.  You might object that, unlike Jimmy Carter and Franklin Roosevelt you personally would not raise that top rate so high; but when your standard is the whim of those in power at the moment, there can be no security in property and there is therefore no real right to property, because at root — to satisfy the mob’s envy — only the state truly owns anything.

Why is any of that “fair”?  Because you don’t happen to like it that someone else has more than you do?  And why is inherited wealth any different from earned?  The bequest is the rightful disposition of earned property — property neither you nor the government earned and therefore have no claim to and cannot rightfully dispose of — and I hardly see how your personal dislike of trust fund babies gives anyone the right to steal from them.  It was once common to dislike African Americans also:  would you defend confiscating their property as well?  And who will we dislike tomorrow?

No, there is no “fairness” to any of this.  “Fairness” is one law, the same for all.  Anything else is just tyranny.  You can dress it up in the language of class warfare (which is to say, envy), but this changes its character not one bit.

This is an issue on which we’ve all been propagandized all our lives:   it is easy to see it in the way of the dominant culture, and frankly hard to see it any other way.  But somewhere we must take a stand.  Envy is wrong.  Covetousness is wrong. Theft is wrong.  Discrimination against those we don’t happen to like very much is wrong.  And institutionalizing these things into law is beyond mere wrong:  it is thuggery.

Rod D. Martin, J.D.
President, National Federation of Republican Assemblies