A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Wealth and Power
Apparently, you can be an atheist and scientist and still be held in sway by cultural fairy tales. Sam Harris recently blurged about the wealthy and how they should Pay Their Fair Share. This has been a party hack point of late since tax increases on the rich can supposedly eliminate the need to end the military occupation of the globe or to remove the remaining threads of the social safety network.
Sam and his ilk labor under the illusion that “the rich” and the state are independent entities. In Sam’s worldview: “Many people have amassed fortunes because they (or their parent’s, parent’s, parents) created value.”
In reality, very, very few people have amassed fortunes (at least the of the magnitude he’s talking about taxing) based on value they’ve created. Their fortunes are based on favors showered on them by the state. I’ve gone over the list of benefits before, and urged the reading of Kolko, Chomsky, and Zinn–refer to them if you doubt me. The institution to which Sam Harris and others are applying for taxation of the rich is the body that, for 245 years has taken money from everybody else and shoveled it to the rich. That is the function and purpose of government.
It’s almost impossible to amass a great fortune “creating value” because everybody else can “create value” too. You need to have somebody with police power mandate the purchase of your products, or criminalize the purchase of your competitors’ products. You need to make sure that immigrants will be arrested for doing the same thing that you do. Better yet, make it illegal for anyone to replicate the goods or services you provide. Then the poor stay poor (or go to jail or are deported) and you’ve got a leg up on fortune amassing.
And if you’re good–if you’re really good, you can get flat-out paid, of billions of dollars for no reason at all.
Trying to recover money from the super-wealthy via the state is like trying to blow up an air mattress with a vacuum cleaner.
The party hack doesn’t provide reasonable solutions. He says whatever is required to keep his party in power. The idea that the baton wielding, tank driving thugs that cruise around beating the crap out of helpless peaceful people would, by executive fiat, roll up on Wall street and take all the loot and apply it to granny’s medical bills is appealing. It will keep millions of democrats occupied–along with mocking Rick Perry–while more wars are declared, the currency is inflated, jails are filled, bankers are paid and the already rich get richer.
The absurdly wealthy are not so because they are under-taxed by the state, but because the state takes the wealth of the other 99% and hands it to them.