Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Redistribution of Income

Conservatives make a big mistake when they get all lathered about the redistribution of income.

In the left/right culture war that has dominated civilization for these last centuries, the "redistribution-of-wealth" is nothing more than a slogan. It is an empty promise made by politicians in the quest for power.

To move beyond the culture war, people need to look past the slogan to strategy. The strategy behind the slogan of redistributed wealth is the ancient technique of pitting the ends against the middle. The technique of pitting the ends against the middle was precisely the technique used by Caesar in the destruction of the Republic of ancient Rome and has been used numerous times by groups seeking to rise to political power.

Emperor Napoleon pitted the ends against the middle in his moments of fame.

Using the dialectical methods of Hegel, Karl Marx penned a compelling philosophy around the strategy that has hypnotized more than one academician.

The Marxist tradition formed an alliance of the intelligentsia and the proletariat in a class struggle against the bourgeoisie. The term "intelligentsia" refers to the political and academic world. "Proletariat" refers to workers and the lower class, and "bourgeoisie" refers to the middle class.

Marxism is a class struggle that pits the ends (the ruling class and under classes) against the middle class.

The ruling class uses the promise of redistributed wealth in the class struggle. However, the redistribution of income rarely happens.

The promised redistributed income is actually paradoxical. Were the process to redistribute income as promised, it would simply create a new middle that one would feel compelled to struggle against again.

The form of the revolution in both ancient and modern times is that the ruling class will promise a redistribution of income to unite the ends against the middle. The ruling class says that if you give us unbridled power, we will use that power toward the end of social justice.

Inevitably, the consolidation of power becomes the means unto itself and the promise of redistributed justice devolves into an overall impoverishment of both the middle and lower classes.

We see that the modern revolutions that pit the ends against the middle have resulted in a series of epic atrocities with hundreds of millions perishing in famine and war.

The process of uniting the ends against the middle is paradoxical and flawed.

Unfortunately, the public debate gets dominated by people like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck who get caught up in arguing against the slogan and fail to understand that it is the strategy behind the slogan (not the slogan itself) that leads a society to ruin.

Attempts to argue against the slogan of redistributed wealth allow agitators of the left the opportunity to employ the most effective tool in their arsenal: Wealth Envy.

To win the debate, defenders of freedom must talk about substance and not slogans. After all, there really is nothing wrong with a redistribution of wealth.

For that matter, the great irony of the modern debate is that the free market, when properly implemented, has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms for equitably redistributing wealth, while the consolidation of political power (favored by the left) tends to lead to a concentration of wealth.

When one understands the strategy behind the leftist slogan of "redistributed wealth," one realizes that the problems we face lie not with the worthy end of an equitable society, but with the fact that the strategy of pitting the ends against the middle will not result in an equitable society.

People often call the more equitable distribution of wealth in the American system social mobility. It is common for Americans who apply themselves to experience different levels of income in their lives.

Sadly, the cries for redistributed wealth usually end with the consolidation of power in an entrenched ruling class and overall impoverishment of society.

The better approach would be for people to realize that growing disparity in wealth that we see in America today is not the result of the free market, but the result of the ongoing consolidation of political and economic power. The growing disparity in income seems to coincide with the growth of government.

In conclusion, the solution for our economic frustrations is not a bigger government with the power to forcibly redistribute income. The solution is to find ways to restore the free market system that was first envisioned by the founders of the United States.


egb said...

The problem with "redistribution of wealth" is that when a liberal says it, we all know that he means to take wealth from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not. Liberals (progressives) have been doing that since TR and Wilson invented wealth redistribution. Liberals use the force of government to do it.

I agree the phrase "redistribution of wealth" isn't evil in and of itself. However, when Obama says it, he moves lots of people to action. Same for Pelosi, and Reid. If Buffet said it, we would be investing our money with him because he has a different purpose.

If conservatives want to win elections, they need to confront social problems. Traditionally, they have not done this. Examples are Health care, inner cities and education. Conservatives need to use the concept of little or no government involvement to solve these problems. All are solvable with very little government control, but no one seems to want to focus on solutions to problem that don't involve huge government participation.

Should such non-government solutions arise, wealth will redistribute itself without any guns or laws to help it.

y-intercept said...

The challenge for conservatives is that they have to figure out how to counter the slogan of 'redistributed-wealth.' The way to do it is point out the slogan as a slogan.

The dynamics of the progressive era is that progressives will centralize power under the claim that this will redistribute wealth. Centralization of power, of course, leads to economic centralization which concentrates wealth.

The stategy of pitting the ends against the middle doesn't elevate the lower class but eestroys the middle class and eliminates the possibility of social mobility.

The progressives play a sick game.

If people realized the nature of the game, they would reject it.

Scott Hinrichs said...

The consolidation of the ends against the middle is precisely what happened in Germany beginning the the run-up to WWI and concluding with WWII. Hitler was simply the guy that happened to be in the right place and have the right kind of understanding to take advantage of it.

y-intercept said...

The history of Germany, China (and other states for that matter) show the evolution of the process.

Hegel created the dialectics. Marx used it to united the ends against the middle.

Hitler was uniting the newly disenfranchised german middle class against the ends. This is the reason that lefties equate the Nazi and Republican party.

Mao was more interesting. He united the ends against the middle in his first revolution, then united the youth against those who survived the first revolution.

Tito was a master at uniting ethic group against ethnic group. Hussein rose to power uniting ends against the middle and maintained power by brutally uniting ethnic group against ethnic group.

The evolution of dialectics pretty much always devolves into centuries of hardship for the people as the ruling class uses the method to united people against eachother to maintain their absolute power.

Why our universities are so thoroughly married to the method is beyond me.

egb said...

Hegel is "thesis, antithesis and synthesis". What particular dialectics are O using? Can you give some specifics?

y-intercept said...

egb, Hegel's philosophy of history is a little more complex than the simple thesis/antithesis/catharsis model. Hegel's real aim was to create a "scientific model" that a historicist could use to understand, predict and possibly control change in history.

Historicism seeks to model and eventually control change.

So, the well engineered CHANGE campaign is really the best example of Hegelian thought in action.

The formula of the campaign was used by Lenin, Moa, Stalin, Hitler, Hessein, Tito, Chavez, and many others. All of these people rose to power on the backs of a change campaign that followed carefully orchestrated agitation by a well organized community of activists.

There are interesting things in Obama's rise to power. For example, he gave a speech about how the Constitution was fundamentally flawed because it did not include "redistributive justice."

Redistributed justice is not consistent with individual rights because redistributive justice involves taking away from people in the targetted groups to give to people in the politically preferred groups.

There is an intrinsic thesis/antithesis style conflict when one pushes redistributed justice as a right.

On the dialectical front: Several chapters in "The Audacity of Hope" had the form of Obama waxing eloquant about the free market. He would then end the chapter with a "but" and simply leave the audience hanging about how he would resolve the conflict between freedom and redistributed social justice.

Conversely, there is very little talk in the book about building a society based on fundamental premises.