In this modern social and political climate we hear a lot of talk about what’s “fair.” Those engaging in this argument usually fit into one of two camps:
1) This camp believes that every human being who is alive and breathing deserves a certain standard of “decency,” arbitrarily set by some third party (usually the government). They believe that this entitlement is a fundamental human right. It usually includes any food, clothing, wage, and healthcare they may desire, regardless of the inherent value of any work they may or may not produce. In short, they focus on a guarantee of a minimum, below which no one should have to suffer. We’ll call them the Guarantees, for the purpose of this blog.
2) This camp believes that every human being who is alive and breathing and physically and mentally able has a responsibility to obtain whatever he can for himself, and that the government is there to provide an atmosphere in which no one interferes with his efforts. They believe that whatever the person achieves is a direct result of the value of his work. They believe that the market determines the inherent value of his work. In short, they focus on each person reaching his maximum potential, depending entirely upon that person’s inherent abilities, efforts, and motivation. We’ll call them the Potentials.
I’ll give a brief example. When arguing about, say, minimum wage laws, the Guarantees are going to say that it’s unfair that a garbage man who puts in 40 hours of hard work each week does not have enough to live independently. The Guarantees will argue for a “living wage,” regulated by the government. This arbitrarily-set minimum will provide this garbage man with whatever the government deems is “decent”, and force the formerly-free market to pay for it. They see this as “only fair.” The Potentials will argue that this situation is anything but fair. They will argue that the market must pay him whatever they believe it is worth. Potentials define the market as the consumer. So if people are unwilling to pay a “living wage” to have their garbage collected, then the garbage man will have to find an alternative job or living situation, like living with friends or family. Potentials will argue that the only way for fairness to exist is if people get paid for what their work is worth.
So the Guarantees and Potentials can go round and round in debate and get absolutely nowhere. Guarantees, when it comes down to it, believe that people are victims of circumstance and only if circumstances are changed can they succeed. Potentials believe that people can change their circumstances and that the greatest tool of oppression is the mind of the oppressed. Potentials believe that no circumstance is too great to overcome.
You might have guessed that I am a Potential. I believe that decisions determine destiny. And I don’t see any reason why “fair” should be defined by what you have…I think “fair” is how you got what you have.
In the US, we have a “progressive” income tax system. This was instituted in 1913 by the second-worst President in American History, Woodrow Wilson, as a “temporary” measure to offset war costs. (NOTE: any time the government says something is temporary, or that they are there to help, RUN!) It was then signed into law, ratified as a Constitutional amendment, and subsequently grew at the hands of the destructive Progressives with their reverse Midas touch. What started with 400 tax rules is now over 70,000 tax rules, which makes it virtually impossible for any average person to know how much taxes they actually owe. And this is just the income tax–there are taxes for just about everything you can imagine. Property, sales…any time the government can stick their grubby paws into your wallet, even if they didn’t provide one iota of service to you, they will do so.
But regardless of our cumbersome tax laws, let’s revisit what a progressive tax actually is. It is a fact that in this country, the top 10% of earners pay 68% of all income taxes. 1% of earners pay 35% of all income taxes. And the bottom 50% of earners paid just 3% of all income taxes. If this is a confusing concept, think of it this way: four people, numbered 1-4, have varying incomes. 1 earns the least, 2 earns twice as much as 1, 3 earns 3 times as much, and 4 earns 4 times as much. In our “progressive” income tax system, 4 has to pay the highest percentage of his income–say it’s 70%. 3 has to pay 40% of his income. 2 has to pay 10% of his income. 1 doesn’t pay anything. In fact, 1 gets some of 2, 3, and 4’s money just for existing. He didn’t earn it. He just has less money and is a living, breathing human being, so the government has decided to give 2, 3, and 4’s money to him.
Taxes are supposed to pay for services rendered by the government. That’s the entire reason why they exist. But do they? They pay for the military, and they pay for roads, and police, and emergency services, etc. No one argues with that. But some of those taxes don’t go to the 50% of people who actually pay income taxes. Instead they are given as “entitlements” or handouts to those who pay no income taxes. The Guarantees will say that they need those things–they need a guaranteed minimum of housing, food, clothing, and healthcare. It is only fair. Plus, the Guarantees will argue, the top 50% who pay for the bottom 50% will hardly miss their money. They have enough to live off of and then some. Why are they so greedy? They must be heartless, evil people.
Potentials don’t see it that way. Most people who are taxed have earned every penny that they pay. They have worked for it. It is theirs. It is what society, or the market, paid them for the value of their work. And if they didn’t directly work for it, their parents did and wanted their children to have their money. They have a fundamental right to it. It is the definition of unfair for a third party (in this case the government) to extort that money from them–to threaten to put them in jail if they do not give it up. Why is it extortion? Because it goes directly to someone else, instead of to services rendered. It is taxation without representation.
Guarantees think about taxation in a morally different way than Potentials. If I earn enough to put me in league with person 4, as mentioned above (the highest income bracket), I will be taxed at 70%. The argument is that I can “afford” to be taxed at a higher rate of my income than person 3, who is taxed at 40%. The argument isn’t that I need to pay more because I earn more money. If I earn more money than 3 and was taxed at the same rate as 3, I would still pay more money than him. So there is something more to this argument that a “progressive” income tax is somehow fair.
Guarantees believe that I have less right to the money that I have earned, because I have earned more. If a Potential brings up the idea of a flat tax to a Guarantee, he will vehemently argue against it and say that it hurts the poor, because the poor can’t afford to be taxed at, say, 10%. They need every penny. And the rich apparently don’t “need” every penny. The Guarantees believe it is moral to decide what another person “needs.” What standard of living they “deserve” to have. They believe that what work a person has done has no bearing on what they “deserve.”
But it goes beyond that. Even if you propose to a Guarantee the idea of lopping off the bottom 50% of earners, saying they still would pay no taxes, but there would be a flat rate for everyone else, they won’t agree. The big shots, they will claim, need to pay more. Why? Why is it moral to demand that those who have earned more be punished more for their success? Why don’t they deserve their money? Is it jealousy? Anger? A feeling of helplessness? Or a misplaced sense of justice? A way of turning the tables and “leveling the playing field,” as it were?
Regardless of what it is, the Guarantees believe in “moral” theft. They believe that it is okay for money to be extorted from some (with the threat of jail time if they do not pay) and handed to others who did not earn it. And they believe that the more money you earn, the more should be stolen from you. Far from believing that this is immoral, Guarantees have justified this action as the epitome of morality. They call it “charity.”
Potentials believe that charity is, by definition, chosen by the person being charitable. If it is not, it ceases to be charity. Forced “charity” is just theft.
Potentials are not heartless people. We are actually among the most charitable people in the nation. Why would that be? Well, I think it mostly has to do with religion. In my faith, the LDS Church, we believe in self-sufficiency and charity as core components of our religion. We tithe our money, which follows the understanding of the Biblical law of giving 10% of your income to the Lord. The LDS Church has a fantastic welfare program focused on helping people up, instead of handing money out. We have employment resources available for individuals who need some help in finding a job. We are encouraged to maintain food storage and other emergency supplies so that we can weather personal economic storms without assistance. And we have a mentality of holding faith, hope, and charity in the highest regard. Many other churches believe the exact same thing. This is why it is no surprise that Potentials tend to be church-goers.
As a Potential, I think that fairness is defined as how a person obtained his money. If the government collects taxes and then does not render services to those from whom they have collected, then they are literally committing theft. And when they do so basically by pointing a gun at the head of the “wealthy” and threatening jail time if they do not pay, this is extortion. Theft and extortion are unfair ways of obtaining money. It doesn’t matter what the end result is. If you break into my house and steal my TV and then give it to your friend who had no TV, because you wanted to be kind, you have still committed theft. And if you break into my wealthier brother’s garage and steal his car because you think, “He earns more, he can afford to lose his car, he’ll just buy another one,” this is still unfair. Most people will agree with this. Even Guarantees would agree with this, unless they are so brainwashed by the Privilege lie that they believe they deserve to be mugged. Seriously. That happened.
If a shady character came to your door and offered to provide you with a very nice-looking Ferrari for free, would you take it? Or would you wonder how in the world he got it?
Well, folks, think about how the government has provided those “free” things like healthcare, housing, and food. Whose money did they use to pay for that? And are you morally okay with living in a place that was paid for with stolen money? Sadly, many might say yes. I answer with a vehement ‘no.’
But what can we do? My blog certainly isn’t going to change the perception of what “fair” is. Three people are probably going to read this thing. No, the solution lies in us. We, the Potentials, must get out there and serve. We must get there before the government does. We must not refuse to give because the government is going to force us to be “charitable” anyway. We must help the poor and the needy, and exercise charity at an even greater level than we currently do. We must show the world that help comes from us, not from an entity who steals and extorts.
More than anything, we must lift our brothers and sisters up, and provide them a way out. The solution for each needy individual looks different because each individual is fundamentally different. If they only ever receive the taxpayer’s dollars, they will spend generations in the same economic level, with no progress. But if we reach down and show them what success looks like, and how they can personally achieve it, then they will have no need for this theft and extortion. And they will have a more favorable view of their brothers and sisters who extended a helping hand. If you recognized that Ferrari as your brother’s car, would you still accept it from the shady guy at your door? No…you probably wouldn’t. You would want that car returned to your brother. This is how we get our money back–we as a society return ourselves to brotherhood.
So get involved. Join the American Red Cross, or go work in your city with underprivileged youth, or think of some other solution. Everyone has something he can do. We must work within our sphere of influence. We probably aren’t able, individually, to change all of society. But we can change ourselves. That is the first step to changing the world.