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 WashingtonPost.com.
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.