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Thou Shall Not Steal, Thou Shall Not Covet

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Exodus 20.17 – (HT:Oremus.org)

Gallup may have identified yet another fault line that divides the American People into two ideological camps. They recently polled as to whether the rich should be heavily taxed to provide more social benefits for the poor.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply different reactions to the government’s taking such an active role in equalizing economic outcomes. Seven in 10 Democrats believe the government should levy taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth, while an equal proportion of Republicans believe it should not. The slight majority of independents oppose this policy.

(HT: Gallup.com)

Although no one would ever call me rich unless they meant it as a sardonic pejorative, my chosen title of this post accurately describes where I come down on this issue. Count me in with the 70% of Republicans and the 49% for reasons both positive and normative.

My positive reasoning is this. The US economy has to stop looking like it does according to what is hyped as “The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever.” The money, resources, and other assets have to be put in the hands of people who are competent. We need people who know their jobs, if we want to create more jobs. Whether you buy into Keynesian Theory for correcting a recession or not, those competent people are not currently running the US Government.

Spreading the wealth, pace Candidate Obama, often puts this money into incapable hands and leads only to lower-order, non-productive consumption. This fails to stimulate the economy beyond a brief burst. People unprepared to handle money properly, often times merely lose it. They then have the same problems they had in the first place. Take the sad example of lottery winner Jack Whittaker.

Take the case of Jack Whittaker, the lone winner of $314 million. He picked the cash option and took home $114 million after taxes…. Today Whittaker is broke and his claim to fame is the run-ins with the law while having millions of dollars. How someone can go from having over $100 million to being broke is something most of us will never understand but it happens all too often.

-(HT: Alabama Lottery.net)

If giving people large sums of money insulated them from consequence, Jack Whittaker would probably tootle around town in a brand new Ferrari. Certainly, a few of the retailers, strip clubs and divorce attorneys patronized by Mr. Whittaker got a nice economic sugar high. However, no meaningful, lasting improvement resulted from placing $114 million dollars of hot cash in inexperienced hands. A very similar case can be made about many of the recipients of President Barack Obama’s stimulus funds.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report being released Tuesday, said at least 3,700 government contractors and nonprofit organizations that received more than $24 billion from the stimulus effort owed $757 million in back taxes as of Sept. 30, 2009, the end of the budget year.

(HT: Yahoo News)

The examples of the broke lottery winners and the stimulus crooks are excellent counter-examples to the old Keynesian Theoretical argument that you can resuscitate a moribund economy by paying people to bury a collection of objects and then paying more people to dig them back up again. Meaningless government handouts, designed merely to goose the velocity of money, do nothing more than urinate a large collection of funds down the drain.

Then we get to the more moral arguments. How do we justify having the government steal the property of another person on our behalf? And make no mistake about it. When we order the government to go “make the rich pay their fair share,” this is precisely the moral behavior we truly engage in. My position on this is simple. Thou shall not covet. Thou shall not steal.

Let me make this perfectly plain, perfectly simple and perfectly offensive. If you believe the government should tax the rich to make them “pay their fair share,” you are greedy and you are a thief. It is just that simple. Just saying “Barack Obama taxed the rich, not me!” does not absolve that evil. It is a dishonest answer if you voted for the man or morally approve of his “spread the wealth” positions on taxation or regulation.

Any person who voted for Barack Obama for the express purpose of having him utilize the US tax and regulatory apparatus to take money away from the rich and give it to them personally, is the moral equivalent of a bank robber. Neither I, nor any other person alive, is entitled to two red cents out of another person’s stash just because we don’t have as much.

Class envy and class warfare lead not only to bad economic investment, but also a society of blood-sucking amoral cannibals. The current desire to “tax the rich” is born of both petty hatred and cynical hucksterism. For America to fix many of our problems, we need to go back to our historical moral roots. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not covet.

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