Class warfare–the imbalance of entitlement.
By Joseph Ellis
Why should the rich pay more taxes? This is a question many people have been asking lately, and an issue recently addressed by President Obama. If a person works hard for the wealth he or she has, it is easy to focus on the work and neglect the societal conditions that existed for wealth to become a reality.
No one becomes rich in a vacuum. There is not one instance of someone going from rags to riches in complete isolation at any point in history. From the dawn of civilization wealth has been a product of society. Why is this the case? It’s because one person can only do so much work. Yes, some people work harder than others, but there is a limit to what an individual can accomplish. This is so elementary, it is a wonder it has escaped the notice of many Libertarians. Alone, with no structure already in place, it is a lot of work just to survive much less build a surplus of material goods. Then, let’s say a person was able to collect elements such as gold, silver, diamonds, etc., they are worthless without another person present who also considers it valuable. Wealth is impossible without shared labor (society) and an agreed upon system that says something is more valuable than something else.
Once a society exists, a person has the ability to gain wealth through a myriad of ways (sales, investment, increased productivity, etc), but they all presuppose there are others who work – and whose labor is either contributed to the productivity of the rich, and/or has a monetary value that provides mass purchasing power. This could lead to an exhausting discussion about the complexity of economic systems, but for now it will suffice to point out that wealth is made not because one individual works harder than another, but because our society has arbitrarily assigned disproportionate value to one occupation over another while simultaneously creating the right conditions for business to have access to large markets.
Getting to the issue of taxes, a government is, according to our American model, for the people by the people. As such, the government is neither good or bad insomuch as a society could be categorized as such. It has certain responsibilities to its citizens and is funded through the taxes we collect. All goods and services that are considered communal, or shared responsibility, are under the management of the government (local, state, or federal).
However, if the vast majority of the citizens are in the working class, and the vast majority of the money belongs to the rich, it would be unjust to assume everyone should pay the same amount in taxes. It would even be quite reasonable to expect the people with the most money to pay a little more so as to reinvest in the society that allowed for such riches to begin with; not so much that it removes any motivation for success, but we have yet to find what that number would be in this nation.
There is a social cost for doing well in our nation, as there is in any nation. It is not a punishment for being successful, it is an acknowledgment that success would be impossible without everyone else. This is nothing new, wealthy people have contributed much to architecture and infrastructure throughout history. The better a person does, the more responsibility he or she has to the rest of society. This is a matter not disputed by the likes of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, and many other very wealthy people.
There exists a moral argument for the wealthy to pay more taxes. This isn’t to say there shouldn’t be wealth, or a person’s wage should be determined by the state instead of free markets. Instead, it’s an argument resting in the fact that wealth relies on everyone, not just a few. I know wealthy pundits in the media would like to say otherwise, but remember: they’re only wealthy because you and I are watching, and buying, what they’re selling, not because they’ve outworked everyone else.
For more on the subject.
For an excellent article that speaks to the injustice of the current tax system Click Here.