nothin's scarier than a blank page

02 July 2011

If A exists under B, then B created A?

"Why shouldn't profitable corporations and finance-savvy individuals pay back to the system that made them rich?"argues social justice activist Paul Buchheit at Buzzfeed.

I take issue with the premise that "the system" makes anyone rich.  

The person or people involved are equally -- if not more so -- responsible for their acquired wealth.  Certainly, a free(er) market system assists the ability for innovators and producers to succeed, but one could easily argue that today's innovators and producers who are thriving are doing so despite being shackled by restriction, legislation, and red-tape.

Just because something exists within a system does not conclusively mean that system is responsible for that something's existence.  If A exists under B, then B created A?  That would mean...
  • The 9/11 attacks happened under Bush's watch; Bush made the 9/11 attacks happen.
  • Slavery existed under the U.S. Constitution; the United States created slavery.
  • The TEA Party formed during the Obama Administration; Obama created the TEA Party.
  • The Columbine shooters lived with their parents; their parents are responsible for the Columbine deaths.
  • Protesters communicate via social media; Twitter overthrew Egypt.
  • I am posting via blopspot; blogspot is typing these words.
  • Hungry people use food stamps; food stamps cause hunger.
  • Poor people receive welfare; welfare causes poverty.
Here's a story for you.  Let's say I open a small, neighborhood bar.  Let's say I want to purchase bottles of alcohol for the bar.  (Crazy, I know!)  Let's say there are myriad stores where I can purchase bottles of alcohol -- but the government limits my choices by mandating that I must buy liquor for my bar from distributors who charge a significantly higher price per bottle than the discount liquor warehouse down the street (from which regular folk can make purchases for home-use).  Let's say I have a stellar business year.  Would you say that those regulations (and the government that created them) were a contributing factor to my business's success?

One might try to argue that I owe something to my customers, since their business at my establishment led to my success.  Check your premises!  A capitalist transaction occurs when two willing parties engage in a contract that is mutually beneficial.  This happened each time that a customer bought a beer at my joint.  Once the money is exchanged for the beer, the beer is enjoyed, and the person safely leaves the bar, the transaction is complete.  The terms of the contract are over.  Nothing is further owed by either party.  Do I appreciate my hypothetical patrons?  Certainly!  And I show this by working hard to provide them with a product that they want to buy.

I mean, seriously, if one of my bartenders is super awesome at mixing drinks and super awesome at chatting up barflies, should the bartender "pay back" a portion of his tips to the bar (the system which provided him the opportunity to be successful)?

The idea is laughable.  The bar owner would obviously not penalize a bartender for being good at his job.  More likely, the bartender would receive raises, promotions, and special treatment (such as preferred shifts).  Why should this expected reward-for-doing-well stop at the bartender?  Why should the rewards/penalties be curbed if someone goes from being "good" to "better" to "best" in their profession?

Why shouldn't profitable corporations and finance-savvy individuals pay back to the system that made them rich?  Why SHOULD profitable corporations and finance-savvy individuals be forced to "give" their profits to a system that shackles them?  (Of course, what Mr. Buchheit is actually trying to say is "Why shouldn't the government steal from the rich to give to the poor?"  If that's how he feels, fine -- but he should say what he means rather than obfuscating his point by trying to reframe it as the profitable owing someone for their success.) 

*Note: The "system" that is most "responsible" for providing people and businesses with the chance to succeed is called CAPITALISM.  Taxes are paid to the United States government.  If Buchheit truly wants the successful to "pay back" the system most responsible for their success, the payment would come in the form of non-taxation that allows the successful to put their profits directly back into the capitalist market.

Check your premise, Mr. Buchheit!

Mr. Buchhiet notes (among other things) "[t]he trillion EXTRA dollars a year taken by the richest 1% (by TRIPLING their cut of the income pie since 1980)."  I find this claim so offensive that I couldn't help ranting here.
1.  Did the richest 1% obtain that "trillion extra dollars" via theft?  No?  Then how did they obtain it?
2.  If the richest 1% earned a "trillion extra dollars", how can an educated, cognitively-sound person say that money was "taken" from anyone?
3.  What is this "income pie"?  Is there a limited amount of income, and everyone gets a slice?  I thought people made money; I thought people worked hard to earn their fair share of the pie -- and the harder they work, the larger the pie becomes.
4.  If the richest 1% did not work hard to create that extra trillion dollars and/or keep that money within this country, it would not exist to be taken by the government.  THE PIE WOULD BE SMALLER if the producers and innovators did not do the things they do that created their wealth to begin with.
5. If the "income pie" is going to be cut into equal portions (rather than fair portions that are sized according to production, innovation, successful capitalist ventures, etc.) then I'm going to stop working now.  What's the point? (And where would we be if everyone did that?)
6.  The "income pie" concept would barely work only if our dollar were still backed by gold.  (And even then, new gold can still be unearthed to change the size of the pie.)  As is, with the government printing money willy nilly and The Fed playing puppetmaster in attempts to manipulate the economy, the best "income pie" argument is that the government is decreasing the pie by messing with inflation. 
7.  If the richest 1% worked triply hard, why should their income not be tripled?  

We are not talking about a feudal state where the peasants have no means to better their lives.  We are talking about a capitalist system in which no governing powers can prevent an individual from becoming as rich as their innovations -- as their mind, thoughts, ideas, and creations -- are able to make them.  (Oh, that's almost true.  The largest governing power that restricts individuals from achieving wealth in proportion to their abilities?  TAXATION.)

No comments:

Post a Comment