But taking from the rich to give to the poor is exactly what it sounds like: robbery.
This article was originally published by Salon on May 24, 1997. It has been reformatted for readability.
It is almost a decade since the Marxist empire began crumbling, yet the crackpot ideas of its founder live on. The idea that wealth is a form of “social injustice,” and that redistributing income is a worthy and progressive goal remains persuasive to people in government and out. That’s why America, for example, still has a capital gains tax, which specifically targets money earned from the creation of wealth.
Such ideas are also still very much a part of the language we speak. We refer casually to the “haves” and “have nots,” as if in the beginning someone handed out life’s goodies to a few and withheld them from the many. By equating “injustice” with unequal wealth, we imply further that one man’s bounty can only be the result of another’s deprivation.
Why instead do we not speak of the “cans” and the “cannots,” the “wills” and the “will nots,” and the “dos” and the “do nots”?
Everyone can look around and see examples of each. It is will, intelligence, ability, energy and desire that determine individual destinies. And what we know in our own companies and families and neighborhoods is true of the nation at large. A recent study shows that most of the families who constitute the richest 1 percent of U.S. households (over $2 million in net worth) earned their wealth, and that most of it is in entrepreneurial assets, unincorporated businesses or investment real estate. And the list of the richest families changes from year to year, proving that wealth is not a divine right.
There are, of course, undeserving rich, just as there are deserving poor. But most people with money are busily producing more jobs and conveniences for others, and taking great risks to do it. That’s why the market rewards them as it does. And that is why redistributing their wealth — i.e. socialism — is quite simply theft. It uses the force of the state to reach into the pockets of those who have earned their money and give it to someone who has not. Not only is this not justice, it is destructive to the less fortunate.