By Dr. Robert R. Owens
From each according to their ability to each according to their need was the hollow promise of the Soviet Union. It was long known to be merely the cover for a ruthless Communist Party that pretended to build a worker’s paradise while in fact enslaving a nation for its own gain.
Today this infamous lie has been resurrected in America as the war against income inequality.
The war on poverty has failed. After decades of propaganda, trillions of dollars, and tens of thousands of regulations there is no less poverty in America than when LBJ sounded the charge of the contrite brigade. Of course it was a shell game all along. The idea that you could take money out of one pocket and put it in another while dropping some along the way aptly describes the effort to tax the rich to alleviate poverty. If all the money that has been expropriated to end poverty had been given directly to the poor we would have ended poverty.
However, this isn’t what happened. It was never what was intended to happen. It will never happen because instead of a direct wealth transfer the loot is filtered through politicians, programs and bureaucrats who all siphon off enough to make sure the pennies that eventually dribble out of the welfare pipeline have little resemblance to the dollars that went in. They certainly don’t want to actually eliminate the poor since their campaign slogans and their jobs would evaporate with them.
Anyone who has ever stood hat-in-hand at a welfare office knows the scorn dished out with the meager fare always makes the meal a little less satisfying than imagined. Jesus told us that “The poor will always be with you.” Yet somehow the political savants who hold sway are always able to convince the low information voters that they will end poverty, or as we call it today, income inequality.
The only equality that is compatible with freedom is equality before the law. By this I mean that whenever society, as expressed through government, makes rules they should apply to everyone the same. In other words if a millionaire commits murder and a homeless person commits murder they should both stand before the same tribunal charged with the same crime. Or if a tax is passed everyone should pay the same percentage. We know that in the first case the difference between a dream team of lawyers and a public defender may mitigate the equality just as in the second case a progressive tax system will distort it. However, this goal of equality before the law is the only one where actual equality is what is required to make it work.
All other types of equality, of income or opportunity or outcome require inequality. If this sounds like circular thinking don’t be surprised; it is.
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