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26.10.08

Long's "share," Obama's "spread" wealth equally immoral

I suppose it was inevitable ever since Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy running for the Senate asserted that incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu was the most liberal senator in the state’s history, given his attempts to tie Landrieu to her party’s presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, that somebody in the media would make a comparison between Obama and the senator Kennedy thinks was even more conservative than Landrieu, Huey Long. The acts reviewed in the article were good, but the conclusion missed the point.

The author argued that the “spread the wealth” concept that underlies Obama’s philosophy as he articulated to a potential voter now known as “Joe the plumber” differs from Long’s “Share Our Wealth” platform, insofar as Obama wants to raise direct taxes on upper-income individuals (while refusing to admit these would be passed in large part indirectly to all individuals) whereas Long not only supported those kinds policies but also wanted caps on personal wealth. Different verbiage also drew another observer to mistakenly proclaim that the two philosophies differed.

But a proper understanding of human beings, their behavior, and the genuine purposes of government shows the ideologies of Obama and Long are one and the same. Recall that any time government works to subvert the open and fair processes of a truly free market – one shielded from government interference that would distort the voluntary exchanges going on among households – inefficiencies are introduced that negatively impact every member of society by destroying potential productive wealth that would accrue to society as a whole. Further, the interference is a confiscation of property that has accrued to households through a moral process whereby resources go to those in proportion to their contributions to the overall wealth of society. Thus, to introduce this artificiality that in isolation itself is an immoral act, a moral justification must be found.

In general, there is widespread agreement that for some kinds of government activity there inherent purposes provide benefits that may justify the taking of the people’s resources – national defense being the most compelling. Even redistribution of wealth, as implied by both Long and Obama, can be justified as a moral activity when it is to those who through no fault of their own are unable to enjoy a minimal standard of living.

The problem is, the likes of Obama want government to do far more than these tasks because either they intellectually misunderstand the moral purpose of government or they disregard it in the pursuit of power and privilege. The “spread the wealth” idea is a classic example of such an error. To believe it is government’s job to spread wealth means one must not understand or admit to the fundamental truth of market exchanges; rather, it rests on the wholly mistaken notion that somehow it’s not “fair” that some have great wealth and others do not, that somehow the market is “rigged” by those who are better off to give advantages to some and not others perhaps in some systematic fashion, and that wealth levels are a result of “life’s lottery” instead of the ironclad rule that resources go to people on the basis of their contributions to society.

Of course, there is only one institution that has the ability to “rig” the market – and that is government itself. So if there is “unfairness” requiring “spread the wealth,” it is because government is too controlling of markets by levying too many taxes, issuing too many regulations, grating too many subsidies, and redistributing too much money – exactly the opposite of what Obama argues. So the deniers like Obama must come up with some bogeyman to deflect away from this verity and sustain their views – in his case, the wealthiest, most productive citizens who already pay for the majority of government operations.

So a proper understanding leads one to know that, despite their differing policies on the subject, Obama and Long’s views are one and the same: acceptance of confiscation of morally-obtained resources for the purposes of favoring certain interests that have no moral claim or justification for use of these resources. It is not unusual to have for the majority of American politicians (including Landrieu) exhibit the same attitude; the only thing atypical about it is that Obama and his ilk like the Democrat congressional leaders envision a higher level of violence against the people on this account than the norm.

4 comments:

Matt Arundel said...

Hi,

I intend to be one of your students next semester as political science is my major and I happened to fall across this blog.

Although I have much more research and many more years to go before I can speak on this with total and unwavering confidence, I find it hard to lump Obama and Long in the same category. Perhaps the same broad area of the political spectrum, but they are hardly identical.

Obama's plan for federal income taxes will increase the rate for the top bracket to 39% and his other tax increases on the same bracket(s) will return to rates around what was seen in the 1990s. Even casual research can show that prior to Reagan, American tax rates were decidedly punitive and far-reaching. These days they not be ideal, but these are not ideal times and taxes (largely thanks to conservatives like yourself)are not nearly as high as they have been in the past. Infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc all have to be paid for and accounted for in some manner, not to mention our looming national debt and growing deficits.

Long was a socialist in essence, Obama is not. And further, I find your general argument to promote the idea that a progressive taxation system is inherently unfair and somehow even immoral because it "punishes" those that make more and therefore presumably work harder. Although it's far from perfect and debatable as to how much people should be taxed, I agree with it if not in principle then in practicality and the assurance that all people will garner equal opportunity to rise up the ranks of society and our economy. If not a progressive system, then what? I've read the FairTax plan, I've heard calls for flat taxes without compensation for the poor, and I've heard arguments arguing for more privatization so that services can be paid for as they're used.

If you don't oppose progressive taxation in general, then where do you draw the line and at what point does morality or a lack thereof become a matter of practicality and fairness versus ideology?

Just wondering! :)

Thanks,

Matt

Anonymous said...

LOL! Matt Looks like a solid "C" student to me Jeff! Good luck with trying to teach anythinig to another young and naive kool-aid drinking liberal. I guess we were all young once. Boy, if I could have that back...LOL!

Anonymous said...

"Any 20 year-old who isn't a liberal doesn't have a heart, and any 40 year-old who isn't a conservative doesn't have a brain."
-Sir Winston Churchill

Kel said...

I just happened upon this web site for the first time. Upon reading the material on this page, I felt I must comment on the shallow and stupid remarks of “anonymous”.

Let me first make it clear that I am an absolute free marketer - probably more so than anyone else on this page. Having said that, I would like to point out that Matt's comments were not necessarily liberal and definitely not naive. He presented a well-thought-out question with logic and reason. The facts he stated were in fact correct - taxes have been historically much worse in this country, and Long was definitely more socialist than Obama claims to be at the moment.

Anonymous, you did not methodologically address Matt's specific points. You instead just hurled unjustified insults from your position of cowardly hiding behind an anonymous name. Additionally, Matt was very polite, but you were not.

Matt proved that he is a thinking man and put himself out there to be challenged (academically). You proved nothing but that you are an ignorant bully.

Kel Kelly