If the government gets its wealth by taking it from the people, where do the people get theirs? Why, you silly goose, they go to their mailboxes and pick up their welfare checks!
Sorry. Couldn’t resist a teensy bit of sarcasm. But the question is a darned good one, don’t you think? In a legitimate, moral society, where does the average person get wealth? Let’s revisit a couple of principles. There are very few points on which modern liberals have less of a clue.
First, there are only three ways of getting wealth: produce it, steal it, or beg for it.
Second, from the nature of Man, remember that he is an individual being, whose rational mind directs his body in pursuit of what he needs to live as Man.
Third, there is no such thing as a right to enslave. If a man, to live as Man, must be free to think and act accordingly, every, single individual human being has the same right. Freedom does not mean that strong people get to abuse those who are weaker.
Fourth, nothing in the world is of any value until acted upon by human beings. An ocean of fish is just that until human action transforms it into food and lies about the ones that got away.
It is my belief that no wealth has ever vanished. Once created, it may be transformed, fragmented, reconstituted, traded, or squandered, but it never vanishes. Even that which is squandered by one person becomes the wealth of another. In this vein, let us go to the beginning.
Some fellow went out and picked some berries and brought them home to his sweetie. She ate them, and used the energy from them to give birth to their baby. The baby grew up and went about doing things to sustain his own life and the lives of his family – and in our wildest dreams, that of his sainted old pappy, that berry-pickin’ motor scooter. That original batch of berries was transformed from plant reproductive matter to wealth – ie, food – by human action. It was transformed into new life, and the process was repeated ad infinitum to this very day. (A thought occurred to me in this very instant: my job at a cell phone company puts me in the position of feeding my family by my work with Blackberries. Humpf. Never thought of it that way.)
Every human being who goes out into the world to make his own way takes with him the very same, original wealth that was possessed by our berry-picker: his mind and body. A friend of mine used to say that from the neck down, we’re worth laborer’s wages. From the neck up, we’re worth fortunes unimagined.
The story has been told so many times we are tempted to regard it as a hackneyed old cliché, but it is a true story. A young man enters the workforce as a laborer, using his muscles to earn his bread. By dint of focus and determination – both products of a rational faculty – he earns promotion and greater pay. He uses his mind more and his muscles less, for while a strong back may swing a true hammer, an active mind might direct a thousand strong backs. There is an exquisite synergy in this. Just as a man’s body without his mind is a corpse, all those strong backs would wallow in the mire but for the genius directing them to build a hydroelectric dam. And likewise, just as a man’s intellect without his body is a ghost, that marvelous computing engine would be just so much horsepower vented into the atmosphere without those magnificent, strong, willing, and skilled hands on the tools.
When the statists talk about “leveling the playing field,” they are talking about subverting and destroying this synergistic process. In fact, nature has provided the ultimate in level playing fields. We all come on the field with the same tools: a mind and a body. He who enacts the causes of wealth will reap wealth. He who enacts the causes of poverty will reap poverty. What could be more elegant and equal? Be careful, now; we are still speaking of a legitimate, moral society. I’m fully aware that all manner of forces act to pervert the game.
Foremost of these is the power of the statists in all levels of government. They tax the successful with a progressive income tax. They reward the lazy and foolish with money taken from the successful. Tell me how this is a “level playing field:” One man works his guts out, risks everything, and creates a fortune, but after taxes, has enough to feed his family beans. Another man quits school, turns up his nose at the military, blows every penny he gets on booze, hookers, and lottery tickets, and still has enough to feed his family beans.
And what of the weak, the lame, the mentally challenged? They certainly don’t come to the game with the same tools with which others are blessed. Many of them do, however, come with tools of some fashion, and by the charitable grace of their better-endowed neighbors, they, too, can produce within their ability. For those who just flat lack usable tools, there is charity, and free people have proven again and again that they are the very souls of charity. Look at the millions collected for Indonesia, Haiti, and Chile, and this is hardly the most prosperous of times for the US.
How do you get the rich to be charitable? First, let ‘em be rich! Were you ever offered a job by a poor guy? We all know the parable of the widow’s mite, and it is a wonderful lesson, but where, in this great, mediocrity-worshipping, whining, sniveling, statist mob in which we live do you ever hear the story of the rich man’s talents? You won’t, because it is not fashionable to think that rich people are decent human beings who are willing to share their good fortune with others. Sure, you’ll find the odd skinflint who hides his money in his mattress and won’t give a nickel to help anybody, but he’s the exception. (See also, “TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS, posted in this blog in Feb., 2010..)
In this line of thinking, however, is a terrible trap! Ronald Reagan was one of the most egregious purveyors of this error. He proposed that men ought to be free to become wealthy so they could pay more taxes. Baloney. (I almost said horseshit, because that’s so much more fitting a term.)
The reason for allowing men to be free to become rich is… allowing them to be free! Men ought to be free because that’s the way they are made. If a free man shares his wealth, good for him. If he doesn’t share, good for him. He may have to answer for it later, but that’s not up to us!
If money is honestly earned, how it is spent is the business of no one save him who earned it.
You see, statists aren’t against money. Oh, they rail against the rich and preach cannibalism (a 1970’s bumper sticker said, “EAT THE RICH.”) but they really love money as much as the next fellow. The difference between decent people and statists is that the former don’t care how money is spent, as long as it is earned honestly. The latter don’t give a rip how it’s earned as long as they get to control how it’s spent. Look at this: our present government isn’t trying to keep people from earning more than a certain amount; they just want to control how all that money is spent. Look at the graft and corruption they are willing to overlook, as long as they get their hands on the proceeds.
The source of wealth is human action applied to nature. Period. Wealth does not come from a government printing press. Sorry.