Hatred of EARNED affluence, the last socially acceptable form of bigotry. #tlot Retweet
My article “Perry Willis beats Bill Maher with a stick” got a lot of attention. Most loved it. But some objected. Repeatedly, the objectors said…
Many rich people got that way using The State to rob people.
I couldn’t agree more!
Some rich people are political cronies. They use The State to loot the American economy and cripple their competitors. They and their political pals are no better than gangsters. But please notice what I said in the Maher article…
Hatred of EARNED affluence is the bigotry of the Left.
Please notice the word EARNED. I was defending earned affluence, not cronyism nor legalized plunder.
But do you know who does NOT make the distinction between earned and unearned?
Bill Maher doesn’t. The Left doesn’t.
When Bill Maher recommended beating rich people with a stick, he didn’t distinguish between those who had earned their wealth and those who had not.
The Left, as a whole, doesn’t make that distinction either. They complain about the “1%” as if it’s some monolith.
Opposing a whole group of people because of some characteristic they share is the very definition of bigotry.
But there’s another way you can know that bigotry is involved…
If the Left really only objected to unearned wealth, then they would focus their anger on cronyism. But they don’t.
Cronyism is a word libertarians use, not the Left, because…
Cronyism derives from Left-statist policies!
The Left loves bailouts. They celebrate subsidies. They embrace trade restrictions. And what would the Left be without big statist programs that reward big contracts?
The Left’s policies are what makes cronyism possible, so how could they focus their resentment in that direction? It’s too dangerous. Objecting to cronyism could unravel their whole statist enterprise. So…
- What the Left really hates is rich people, of any variety.
- And what the Left really loves is violence. All their “solutions” are violence-based.
That’s why Bill Maher wants to beat rich people with a stick. That’s why everyone on the Left wants to raise taxes on the rich. I stand by my original claim…
Hatred of earned affluence is the bigotry of the Left.
It’s also the last socially acceptable form of bigotry remaining in America.
We want to change that. We want to shine a light on the Left’s bigotry, and hound it from the face of the Earth. We also want to send cronyism to the dustbin of history.
You can help us…
- Share “Perry Willis beats Bill Maher with a stick”
- Forward this message to others.
- And consider making a contribution to promote our work.
ZAP The State and have a nice day,
Co-creator, the Zero Aggression Project
I question whether people who got their wealth through State cronyism should be condemned either. The State system put the money on the table, you’re a fool if you don’t take it. If you don’t, the next person will. Successful species are those that adapt best to their ecosystems, and as long as we have an ecosystem that hands out money to well-connected people, it only makes sense to become well-connected so you can get your piece of it.
Certainly, this is a step down the moral ladder from earning money by producing something for the betterment of society, but I don’t see the point in condemning people for doing what’s best for them. The solution to the evil of the State is to get rid of the State, not chip away at the parasites who thrive from it.
Paul, We wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I made the very same point during a guest host appearance on the Gary Nolan Show earlier this month. The subject matter was criticism of the Koch brothers. One of them had decried subsidies to business and said they should be ended. But they were indeed taking a few million per year in subsidies. If we could get everyone to agree, or even a sufficient number of us, that this should end — that we’ll give up the subsidy — then the right result could occur. It’s funny, but the very things politicians fund the most, costs the most, making the subsidy near-necessity. If they weren’t, as Harry Browne said, “Breaking our legs, then handing us a pair of crutches,” then we would walk fine and even have the strength to assist others.
It certainly is bigotry to lump the entire 1% into the same category. Within the 1% are indeed people who acquired their wealth unfairly and those who truly earned that wealth. The blog post covers one route to wealth that could be considered unfair–cronyism–but does not consider other unfair means of acquiring wealth.
The issue of fairness and unfairness is complex and difficult to study rationally because judgments of fairness are colored by emotions. I tried to outline in a white paper some criteria that are consistent with libertarian principles for what could be considered fair and unfair ways of acquiring wealth. The full paper is available at http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/j/5/j5j/papers/ConferencePapers/2011NEEPS.pdf .
Briefly, my hypothesis is that that most people would judge a method of wealth acquisition to be fair if all parties (a) participate voluntarily without duress; (b) are not deceived; and (c) believe that the value of what they receive is roughly equal to or greater than the value of what they exchange for it. I don’t think this proposal is too controversial and would be acceptable to non-libertarians as well as libertarians.
However, my proposal also suggests that there are a number of perfectly legal methods of acquiring wealth that I believe to violate the above principles on close examination. They include inheritance, lending with interest, fractional reserve banking, exotic financial derivatives, and insurance. I suspect that many libertarians would take issue with this part of my proposal, while some leftists might agree with some of them. For example, I think that many leftists would claim that wealth disparity is largely caused by social class differences. If you are lucky to be born into a rich family and you inherit that wealth (which you, as a child born into the family did not earn), this gives you an unfair head start over those born into poor families. I think that’s why leftists want to redistribute wealth, to erase social classes. I do not agree with that proposal, yet I do think that inherited wealth is not earned and is therefore unfair.
I welcome feedback on my proposal, which I do not see as the final word on economic fairness.
John, If I _earned_ my wealth, and then I decided to buy a car with it, is that okay? I’m assuming you’d say, “Sure!” Well, if during my lifetime, I decided to give money to someone as a gift, would that be okay? Keep in mind. They didn’t EARN it.
Jim, even more to your point, if we were not allowed to give money to people who didn’t earn it, all charity would be forbidden.
I want to be free to do whatever I want with my earned wealth, including leaving it to my family. I imagine that most people in every wealth percentile feel the same way. As my white paper indicated, this is a biological imperative.
That’s why I spent little space analyzing the fairness of inheritance. More important than whether parents leave their wealth to their children is the fairness by which the parents acquired their wealth in the first place.
Hi John, it seems to me that all of your examples actually comply with your three standards for what constitutes fairness, including even fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking is perfectly fine morally if depositors know that their money is going to be loaned out, and may not be instantly available should they try to withdraw it. And most people understand that this could happen. The real problem is that State regulations make no room for banks that simply serve as money depositors and payment processors. Were such banks allowed to exist I would certainly keep some of my funds in that kind of bank, and the rest in a traditional fractional reserve system, as each type of institution would fill a different role for me.
However, your point about how the Left perceives inheritance is certainly correct. Alas, it doesn’t work very well for describing actual outcomes. Yes, children who start out in more affluent households tend to do better overall, but there are too many counter-examples of people working their way up from nothing, and also a great many examples of people who lose their inherited wealth fairly quickly.
In addition, it isn’t at all clear that the vast array of transfer programs favored by the Left actually do anything to give poor young people a better start in life. For instance, State schools in poor areas tend to be worse than State schools in more affluent areas. And for every program that transfers money from the more affluent to the less affluent, there is is another that transfers wealth in the other direction. And the Left seems to make little effort to correct these flaws. They seem to NOT care if or how a program actually works, so long as the program professes noble sounding intentions, or was championed by a politician perceived to be on their side.
Perry, I am interested in what people from different walks of life consider to be fair or unfair, so I was fascinated to find that you perceived all of my examples of potentially unfair wealth acquisition to meet the three standards of fairness. I think that reasonable people can disagree on perceptions of fairness, and I am just beginning to explore those differences in perceptions.
I am well-aware that there are counter-examples of people who work their way up from nothing to great wealth and people born into wealth who lose it. I think children inherit biologically-based talents and dispositions that incline them toward success or failure, and some poor kids are blessed with a lucky combination of genes while some rich kids are dealt a lousy genetic hand. Pure circumstantial luck also plays a factor, just like the draw in poker. The question is exactly how many counter-examples are there, and what is the precise contribution of inborn factors, family wealth, and random events. That is an empirical question to which I have no answer.
My sense is that most transfer of money programs have negligible positive effects and are incredibly wasteful because they are run by politicians who are not held accountable for results. So I cannot endorse simply taking money from some to give to others.
This does not mean that I think the current game of life is fair. In Monopoly, every player starts with $1500. There’s a lot of luck in the game and a little bit of strategy from investment decisions. We consider the game fair because each player starts with the same amount of money. If, instead, one player out of five started with $6,375 (that is, the top 20% began with 85% of the wealth) while the other four players began with $281.25, the game would hardly be considered fair. And if new players replaced the starting players, inheriting their wealth, the game would remain unfair.
I do not think that wealth inequality will ever be eradicated, nor do I think it is necessarily a good idea to try to eradicate it. I also think that current governmental policies to reduce poverty are generally unhelpful. I do not have solutions, but (through the Monopoly analogy) I at least understand the deep concern of leftists who want to reduce wealth inequality, however misguided their programs might be.
I appreciate, and enjoy, the Zero Aggression mailings, which I read daily ( as well as Lew Rockwell’s and Justin Raimondo’s sites). About the left’s attitude towards “earned wealth”: it seems to me exceptions are always given to certain sources of earned wealth: celebrities, for example, artists, musicians, anybody associated with mass media. I was going to include the political class, but that is obviously unearned wealth. Sports may be or may not be in this excepted category: I am thinking about the fuss over Tom Brady. There is a satiric treatment of the left’s acceptance of unearned wealth and certain kinds of earned wealth in one of David Lodge’s novels (Small World, I think) where an Italian ultra left theoretician, Fulvia Morgana, explains to an American academic, stunned by her opulence, that (a) her wealth is inherited, (b) she knows how to enjoy it, and (c) why not, since, as a Marxist, she is convinced that individuals can do nothing to overthrow oppressive economic systems. Maybe the ideological position of the celebrity is what accounts for the exceptional treatment accorded to that individual by the egalitarians. Or maybe some need that the individual supplies for the left, analogous to the National Socialist willingness to overlook ethnic genealogy when necessity so predicated. I believe that the theoretical grounding for this comes from Marx himself, who appears to have objected to unequal wealth generally when it arose from “exploitation”: the wealth accruing to the capitalist as a result of “consuming labor power”. Although many years have passed since I read him, I recall that Mises has something to say about this in his Anti Capitalist Mentality.
Great comments, Bill. No doubt there will be people who would say that income in particular occupational categories is unearned, or that people are paid more than they are worth. This will be a function of differences in values. I daresay that many people (mostly on the right) would regard me as overpaid for what I used to do when I was employed as a university professor. Especially when I encouraged students to think for themselves. My only response would be that my job was based on voluntary transactions and that salaries are based on the market. I have my own biases and I agree that the income of politicians is unearned because our transactions with them are not voluntary. We do not negotiate tax rates and often end up with “products” that we do not want.
By the way, I know that Perry’s post focused on bigotry of the left, and I think that such bigotry and hypocrisy deserves to be exposed. At the same time, I find bigotry and hypocrisy all over the political spectrum, possibly even in my own libertarian-ish views. I therefore welcome the insights of others into my current positions, which are always subject to change. I also look for common ground with people of all political stripes, even those on the extreme right or left who constantly demonize the other end of the spectrum. I enjoy the challenge of finding ways for diverse people to coexist peacefully.
I think the emphasis within the comments thus far are focusing upon the wrong thing presented. Yes wealth inequality or better called wealth distribution of private parties is really not that much money to be concerned with unless you are talking about one of the banking families. Which brings me to the point I’m making. It is the rules and regulations that govern banking and finance which allow the unfair practices to occur. All of the mentioned methods of wealth acquisition revolve around banking and finance except inherited wealth. That right there should present the clear fact that it is bankers/insurance/stock exchanges/market based transactions that have one side that has very unfair advantages in the transactions. It is the banking side. I will just say bank to cover all those things of a banking nature such as market trading of any and all investments like derivatives, options, stocks, futures, options on futures, bonds, loans, treasuries, etc. The banks that lend money are allowed to charged unreasonable rates of interest and a plethora of fees on any loan, they also charge all sorts of vague charges that when asked about the answer makes no actual sense when thought of rationally or fairly(I mean what is fair about points or originating fees among about fifty others thrown in). How about the spread on options and stocks charged? The commission charges for basically doing nothing? Here’s an unrelated one, monthly phone bills and utility bills that have multitudes of fees that for years should have been going to the needs posed by dated infrastructures but instead has been pocketed leaving the infrastructures dilapidated andin much need of repair. This also applies to roadways and bridges. We all are taxed to death for these things and more yet the funds are nowhere to be found when needed because somewhere along their collection they got divvied up among someone in those positions up high enough they were able to do that.
What the problem is in these is that regulators and their regulations have become pointless due to the inflation caused by here it is….banking. Reserve banking that is and its method of currency creation that causes inflation. There is NO valid way of fairly conducting reserve banking, the winners will always be those who run or own the system. Their acquisition of wealth is unjust and immoral. It enslaves everyone who participates whether they want to or not. Thus reserve banking is a violator of many inherent rights as well as a violator of moral values and ethics. The argument that we need it to conduct our business in transactions is invalid, there is or was more than enough precious metal before inflation caused the amount needed to cover the demand an exchange of currency for metal has caused. Which is of course a problem caused entirely by one entity, the reserve banking system and its satellite banks and partners in the currency creation methods they practice.
“The Left, as a whole, doesn’t make that distinction either. They complain about the “1%” as if it’s some monolith.”
Although I do not find it difficult to this see where you’re coming from and why you’ve mentioned it (regarding the aforementioned statement), I can’t understand how you’ve determined “The Left, as a whole” share the same distinction regarding the “1%”.
It seems to be a somewhat bigoted statement.
Hi Nick. To the extent that there is some member of the Left who does not use the term 1%, then that person may indeed not suffer from the kind of bigotry that I describe in my article. I’m sure such persons must exist, so you’re probably right that I should merely single out those members of the Left who do use the term 1%