According to Gallup, a record high 52% of Americans now want government to be Robin Hood and “redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.”
Less than half (45%) disagree.
It should then come as no shock that President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney by almost the same margin (51%-47%) to win re-election in 2012.
This is a disturbing trend for America going forward. A majority of Americans now want government deciding who get’s to have how much? Whatever happened to shooting for the stars?
According to the Gallup poll, almost six in 10 Americans today believe money and wealth is unevenly distributed in the U.S. I don’t contend that at all. In fact, no system of government short of communism leads to an even distribution of wealth.
But as J.D. Tuccille of Reason explains, “’That’s not fair,’ is the plaintive cry of every toddler ever born, though my own son quickly memorized my constant response: ‘Not getting your way isn’t the same as ‘unfair.’ I may need 5 minutes alone with the American public, however, since many of my countrymen apparently think it’s ‘unfair’ that other people have more money than them — and they want the government to give them some of what the other guy has.”
I partly chalk up this trend on the failure of the pro-liberty movement (both conservatives and libertarians) failing to make the moral case for capitalism. Not only do the numbers support capitalism, morality supports capitalism. First, it allows us to earn our success. Study after study shows that earned success leads to happiness far more so than being handed wealth.
Second, capitalism is the most fair system. If we are talking about equal distribution of wealth, capitalism produces decidedly unequal results. But as I stated earlier, nothing short of communism achieves equal distribution of wealth (which is basically no wealth). If we are speaking about keeping what you earn and what is rightfully yours, capitalism delivers. If a person is asked whether someone has a right to what they did not earn, the answer is a resounding “no.” The free market therefore leads to more fairness if less redistributive equality. Redistribution is totalitarian and oppressive.
Third, capitalism leads to greater generosity and a higher standard of living. Beneficiaries of free enterprise are far more generous. When the government takes care of everyone, no one feels the need to give.
What also doesn’t get enough attention when comparing capitalism in America to socialism in Europe is focusing where the wealth is held. Under the socialist economies of Europe, the same wealth stays in the same families generation after generation. New wealth is hardly ever produced under these systems. But in America, under the laws of free market economics and the entrepreneurial spirit that has defined this country’s social fabric since its inception, new wealth accumulated by new families is routine.
The Hurun Global Rich List 2013 report shows the U.S. (with a population of 315.7 million people) has the most billionaires in the world with 409. All the member states of the European Union, with a collective population of 503.5 million, have a total of 205 billionaires – or half the number of American billionaires.
That’s why my father, like countless other immigrants from all over the world throughout history, immigrated to the United States. He was originally from Greece, where as he used to say, “You can count all the wealthy families on one hand: Angelopoulos, Latsis, Niarchos, and Onassis.” He didn’t want to stay in a country where your social and economic classes were predetermined at a fixed level no matter how hard you worked, risked or accumulated. He immigrated to the U.S. because this was the land of opportunity, economic freedom, and infinite upward mobility.
Or basically, where new wealth is created every generation.
In other words, he had enough of “fair” distribution and chose to leave it. Can’t say that I blame him when I see where his home country wound up today.
I think Dr. Milton Friedman summed it up best when he said, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”