—The conservative thinking believes that society should not take from the elites and give to the commoners. After all, a person who cannot effectively manage what he has does not deserve more. A person who can effectively manage what he has does not deserve to be punished. Society cannot progress by propagating weakness and inhibiting strength. Freedom as a virtue dictates that just as people should be free to rise up, so too should they be free to fall down. And besides all that, if God wants someone to have a Mercedes, who are we to disagree?
—The idea of “property” as an inalienable right is honestly pretty laughable. I don’t think God gives people Rolex watches, and I think if he did, it would be impossible to steal them. A more generic phrasing of the concept might be to say that we should have the exclusive right of access to and usage of that which we acquire. But, there are two or three major sticking points. What does it mean to have acquired something? What limits are there to what we can acquire? Why those limits? What means are we allowed to use to acquire things? Why those limits? And, what about “access to and usage of”? What do they mean? Are there not limits on how we use the things we have acquired? Why those limits?
—Freedom is indeed a double-edged sword. I can have an apple for a snack every day and go for a walk, or I can eat cupcakes and not brush my teeth. We are free to make “good” AND “bad” decisions. But, it is a special circumstance where the decision making powers, the freedoms, of more than one person interact/overlap. I am free to hug a tree, but my freedom to hug a pretty woman I see on the street is limited by her own freedom, and the decision making process is not just an action; it is an interaction. Similarly, maybe my ability to buy up all the food at the supermarket or buy all the houses in a city should not just be an individual’s action, but an interaction between all the people the action significantly affects.
—It may sound like a crazy idea that Bob should have to check with Jim before buying bread to make a sandwich, but it is the fundamental principle of democratic governance. We crazy democratic peoples believe that we should have a say in decision-making processes that affect us.
—Elitism is the idea that people should be given relevant rewards for certain traits, or that people should be given certain rewards for relevant traits. It’s not such a bad idea that the basketball player who most helps his team to win should be paid the most. The problem is in determining relevance. I mean; so what if a player is tall if he’s a shitty scorer and/or a poor defenseman. Conversely, rewarding your best player with praise, playing time, the best jersey number and parking spot, etc. would be pretty meaningless without also giving him something that everyone thinks is relevant and valuable: money.
—So what is a relevant trait or talent with regards to society? What traits or talents does society currently reward an individual for having? What kinds of rewards does society currently grant individuals it deems to be relevant and/or worthy? Are those kinds of rewards relevant, worthy, fair in the face of what those individuals do or can do for society?
—Think of it this way: if you had to pay LeBron James and your local garbage man out of your own pocket for doing what they do, who would you choose to pay more?
—The idea that taking something valuable from one person and giving it to another is punishment might seem pretty straight-forward . . . until we think about Santa Claus. We don’t say that Santa climbs down the chimney on Christmas to punish himself by taking from himself and his elves and giving to everyone else. That narrative would sound absurd. Santa gives willingly. That’s the difference, right? But taking from Warren Buffet would be wrong if he did not consent.
—In that argument, there are a couple of points of contention. The first is that no matter how much is taken from someone like a Warren Buffet, it might still not be as much as a young man losing his legs or his life for this country in a war, especially not if that young man was conscripted (i.e. was forced to give, against his will). It might still not be as significant of a contribution as a Michael Jordan or a Michael Jackson or a Nikola Tesla or Ernest Hemingway or any of the other monumental figures in our history. These people gave as much to our collective as a Warren Buffet ever could, and not all of them willingly. If you asked JFK or Martin Luther King, Jr., I bet they’d tell you they would rather have been sailing or cooking than have had to engage in the tremendous struggles that they did and ultimately died for. Many of them did what they did, because it had to be done. They gave what they gave, because it had to be given.
—The second point is that the wealth of any person of a society is dependent on his society. It is only because the United States is the United States that Warren Buffet or any other rich person can accomplish the things that they do. Like it or not, we are a product of our environment, especially our society. “Self-made” men are a farce. Change the society they are born into and their lives will likely have a much different outcome. That isn’t to say that individual traits and talents don’t have a huge effect on a person’s path through life, but if Neil Armstrong had been born a Ugandan, he is almost certain to never have walked on the moon. Similarly, Bill Gates probably wouldn’t be the founder of Microsoft if he was born a Ugandan. Civilization is a team effort. A person is wealthy in the context of society. Outside it, he is just a shivering, bald primate clinging to trinkets.
—I think the most compelling question to ask is whether it makes sense to feed and house and clothe a crack addict or alcoholic or rapist. They have made bad choices and we might genuinely wonder the point of positively contributing to their lives when then they have so negatively contributed to their own and others’. My answer to this is that no one is perfect, not when looked at through the subjective lens of culture and society. We all commit “crimes” and “sins”. Some of these just happen to be legal. Warfare, espionage, law enforcement, taxation, and many other things would literally be criminal acts if undertaken by non-government agencies. But smoking a cigarette in the park is against the law. It’s quite subjective and society doesn’t exactly negotiate with the individual. If you are born into a society that doesn’t suit you, you either have to leave it, change to fit into it, or fail in it. Changing the society, even when the changes are perfectly reasonable, can take a heroic effort and the individual is often expended in the process. So is it fair to ask a child born into a society that doesn’t suit him or her to leave the civilization of their birth or to become someone they may not want to be or to spend their life resolving the conflict they find themselves in with society? In that light, it should be no wonder that there are “poor” people and criminals and pariahs and addicts, etc. People who are normal and well-adjusted may not be such great managers of their lives and resources as much as they might just be lucky to have been born into a civilization to which they are well suited. And, should we just discard the human beings that aren’t well-adapted, who society subjectively determines to be bad and punishes as such? And, if so, what should that process of eliminating “bad” human beings look like? What does it say about our “civilization”?
—Stealing from good people to reward bad people . . . that’s one way of looking at it. Shouldn’t we wonder, though: Is it stealing? Are the good people really good? Are the bad people really bad? Is it really rewarding them? No matter what else, is doing this a worthwhile action to take, in itself or in its result? And, what natural law or right gives a man the imperative to own and control so much more than he could ever need or use, and to the detriment of others in his society?