Former Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

Dec 20, 2011 — by: Commissioner Linthicum

In a previous blog I took issue with the narrative style and perspective of a guest commentary by Greg Sargent. Today I want to highlight the simple, yet dangerous, implications of the fallacious assumptions used by the author, who routinely writes for the

The first paragraph sets up his whole argument. He states,

“President Obama's speech in Kansas on Tuesday was the most direct condemnation of wealth and income inequality, and the most expansive moral defense of the need for government activism to combat it, of his entire presidency.”

 In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that it is “self-evident that all men are created equal.” He obviously meant that all people have the same moral worth and human dignity. He continued, noting, each person also has “been endowed by their creator” with certain natural rights and a just government is one that enforces them equally for all people.

Each of us is also fully aware that we are amazingly unique. We differ in terms of abilities, both mental and physical, we differ in alertness, attitudes, and a myriad of other human attributes. It should also be self evident that those natural differences will inevitably result in different people excelling in different areas. In turn, these levels of expertise will generate differing amounts of income and wealth.

So... Why would anybody expect wealth and income to be equally distributed among any segment of the population? Are all CEO’s “equally” wealthy? How about all of the people on your street, or in your apartment building. Are they all “equally” wealthy. Do all Hispanics, Blacks, Italians, or Latvians earn the same income? Should they?

What about arbitrary wealth categories like “middle-class”, or “poor”? Would we expect that all members of that artificial group would always fit into the same definition for “wealth”? Furthermore, if that were true on Tuesday, would it continue to be true one year from now? Is wealth distribution a constant? Should it be? What about saving or spending habits, are these also uniformly distributed? Do these personal habits contribute to one’s wealth?

How would one account for age, experience and expertise within one of these artificial classifications? When a high-school graduate, or drop-out, enters the market place they are starting from ground zero. Another individual who has been in the job market for twenty years certainly earns more income and has greater wealth. How are these factors accounted for? How is the journey through the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) accounted for over time?

Mr. Sargent urges a call for an “expansive moral defense”? His premise is that wealth distribution is a “moral” issue simply because it exists. Mars exists. Does this require some form of “moral” activism? Jupiter exists and has a volume that is nearly 1400 times greater than Earth’s. Is this fair? Where’s the moral outrage?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so rough on Jupiter. I found some warm fuzzy details that will help calm your emotions. Jupiter isn’t that unfair when you realize it’s diameter is only 11 times greater than Earth’s. This is no different than a modern 6th grader’s weight compared to his newborn baby brother. There... don’t you feel better?

The socialistic ideas that Mr. Sargent promotes are destructive because they don’t account for the unique story that individuals bring to the marketplace. No two of us are alike. Not even twins. We have height, weight and fingerprint differences, as well as, unique skills, personalities, and preferences. Given these self-evident truths, why would anyone expect wealth and income distribution to be equal?

Marxists, in particular, ought to be luxuriating in this highly observable reality. But they don’t. Remember, their hero’s banter includes the absurd notion that the value of any commodity does not come from the quality or utility of the commodity, but rather from the labor expended in the commodity’s production. It would follow that the unique skill applied to the production of any good ought to warrant greater rewards from the marketplace.

But alas, Marx’s gibberish makes rubbish of this common-sense. He writes,

“Commodities, therefore, in which equal quantities of labour are embodied, or which can be produced in the same time, have the same value. The value of one commodity is to the value of any other, as the labour-time necessary for the production of the one is to that necessary for the production of the other. As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour- time."

Here, we can see Marx’s tyrannical view of your unique nature. You, as a unique individual, with your special skills, attributes, perspectives and insight don’t matter one wit to the collectivist’s mind. If it takes one hour to sweep a sidewalk, change a set of break pads, cook breakfast for 12 people, fix a grandfather clock, or perform emergency surgery, they are all equal. The math is very simple. The value of any commodity is just the sum of its “masses of congealed labour- time.”

So, if this is the equality you’ve been wanting then be prepared.

It won’t matter that you are created in God’s image. It won’t matter that you possess some unique skill or talent. The only relevant fact will be the time required for you to sweep the street. Will there be any incentive to perform better, faster, or do the job more thoroughly? Obviously not. This also begs the question, if you excel then what happens next? Worse yet, if you don’t do as well as the rest, what should you expect?

As a statistical outlier, either above or below average, your anomaly can be eliminated. In this new world of equality, someone will decide your future. You will be destined to sameness, not individualism. You will lose your identity to the party in power. You will ultimately lose your human dignity because the very nature of your uniqueness is statistically abhorrent to the ideals of collectivist policy-makers.





  1. Ed Silling ~ Jan. 18, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

    Dennis, It's a mistake to assume you understand what Marx is talking about. If you'd read the whole page of your copy of Das Capital you'd find that you and Karl are in agreement. The passage you cite is indeed there, but Marx is condemning the fact that in the capitalist system of production, humans are treated as alienated production units valued not for their rich potential but as undifferentiated units of profit. He believes in fact that human values and not economic profit should be the core value of society. I think Jesus said something similar. You're quite right, however, that Jefferson did not promote economic equality. He couldn't, really, given that he was a slave owner who derived his wealth from the input of inhuman production units working his plantation. Your conflation of qualitative and quantitative difference as "natural" (earth vs. Jupiter) has to be a joke, of course, though that doesn't absolve your from trivializing the problem of inequality, which has serious human consequences. Does the fact that your piece unmasks St. Thomas Jefferson as a cynic and agrees with Marx make you a Manchurian candidate? Ed #
  2. Finnious T. Fogbottom ~ Jan. 31, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

    At an early age I found that I could hear, see and smell the reality of human differences. During PE one could easily see etc. that even all laundry was not equal. It was crudely amazing the color that unwashed undies could take on after six month or so of uninterrupted use. Somehow scholastic and social performance, not to mention diction seemed to track with the Bell Curve of laundry tolerance, so to speak. Like the pecking odor (sorry that should have been order) of the animal kingdom a class strata began forming around those “differences”. On another level it was interesting to see what would happen when a ball was thrown out into the midst of thirty or so kids. There was an almost immediate formation of teams, stars, spectators, cheerleaders and the indifferent. One's level of cleanliness didn’t exactly translate into athletic ability yet it was clear that all were not equal in ability, people management skills, interpersonal relationship grace or even interest. No, we are not all the same anymore than people care for their belongings or living space with the same level of care. If you have ever been a landlord or know anyone who has held that position they will tell you that not all are equal in their ability to respect their own nests. A self described local slum lord was amazed to find rooms stuffed to capacity with dirty clothing. It was “easier” for some it would seem to lazily toss the stanky threads into their living space and “get” or buy clean ones. Morality, ambition and personal responsibility take a pyramidal shape as well, unfortunately. That begs the question; are there more poor folk in jail because some have too much or because the imprisoned did too much illegal stuff? No, we are not all the same. Yet, isn’t it nice to live in a country where (at least for now) one can use their natural ability, drive and determination to rise above their current situation? That is if they want to apply themselves, and of course if they have the right stuff? If “it” is just given to them though it will most likely end up in a pile in a forgotten, stinky and no longer inhabitable room somewhere. Finnious #
  3. Dani ~ Feb. 15, 2012 @ 11:29 am

    Ed - Does it "trivialize" the problem of inequality to assume that a one-size-fits-all government program can fix a lack of gumption, a difference in ability and skills, or an unwillingness to work hard? I think so, and I think that in so doing, most liberals trivialize the countless hours of effort by the "makers", who are then forced into servitude to those less able to pursue the American dream for whatever reason. Some people are disadvantaged, certainly, but we don't help them by bringing down, demonizing and trivializing the success of the "rich". Instead, we should support those charitable organizations who are endeavoring to help the underprivileged out of poverty, instead of, by government mandate - keeping the poor in poverty by virtue of the endless hamster wheel of the welfare state. #

Leave your reply (* = required field)

* :
* :
* Comment:
Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

For current postings by Dennis Linthicum, visit the Dirt Road Economist website.

Walden's Record
Walden's Record