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William Murchison
William Murchison
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The Return of Robin Hood


A prime reason for subscribing to the New York Times — a cultural misdeed for which I regularly beat my breast — is that of tapping into the Times' tips concerning what real, bona fide Forward Thinkers are thinking at a given moment. Like now, when opinion leaders are lining up to assure us the return of Robin Hood economics is way overdue.

To a talkative redistributionist — the young French economist Thomas Piketty — the Times turned over a whole page of its Sunday Business section, allowing the subject to make the case for what the reporter called "a progressive global tax on real wealth (minus debt), with the proceeds ... redistributed to those with less capital."

Piketty (pronounced, according to the Times, "pee-ket-ee") explains, "We just want a way to share the tax burden that is fair and practical." His thick new book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," has vaulted onto the Times' best-seller list, hailed by Paul Krugman — redistributionist, Times columnist and Nobel laureate in economics — as maybe the decade's most important economics book.

Forward Thinkers want it understood that the rich make too much money and that, what's more, voters need to know it. Congressional Democrats have taken to talking about it all the time. Old Clinton hands Stan Greenberg and James Carville, in a recent memo, urge the party, instead of talking about the painfully slow economic recovery, to bash the 1 percent. Along comes M. Pee-ket-ee to provide the bashers with intellectual armament.

Redistribution sounds to many Forward Thinkers like good politics, and it may be. As economics, it's pretty bad. We know this because we know the redistributionist impulse — the "leveling" impulse, as it was once called — to be historic and the consequences of following the impulse to be, well, unsatisfactory. That would be a good generic word for something that never works out as planned.

Would-be redistributors perennially predict a day of equality and warm sunshine once redistribution is accomplished.

They think they will create a static situation. Unfortunately for their way of thinking, static situations never occur. Life is dynamic; there's constant reshuffling of the deck, despite attempts to stack it. New opportunities and discouragements arise. Old ones fade. Invention and ingenuity reshape prospects. Did the railroad barons — the Huntingtons, Goulds and so on — foresee Henry Ford? Did Ford foresee Soichiro Honda? Capitalism is a kind of economic Magnificat: "He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and hath exalted the humble and meek." Some rise; some fall.

They do, that is, when capitalism is allowed to work. The redistributors think they have a better idea than what they disparage as laissez faire (let-'em-alone) capitalism — a species that exists mainly in the minds of New York Times writers. Let the government determine who needs what, is essentially the redistributionist argument. Let the government then supply what is needed. M. Pee-kitt-ee (while proclaiming himself no Marxist) wants to increase taxes on the rich, who are to be counted on, evidently, to labor on without noticing.

Democratic Party gospel calls for raising the minimum wage whether or not employers, to meet the added expense, might reduce or reshuffle employment and take other steps to make the books balance.

The redistributors are right about one thing: Middle class wages should grow. They need to grow on their own, absent the dicey and dangerous strategies of the see-all, know-all set, now dragging down their Pee-kitt-ee tomes in search of validation.

Counter ideas such as Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch vet in the Wall Street Journal — the Times' philosophical nemesis — draw from "progressives'" yawns and disdain. The authors point to the rise of single-parent families as "the strongest statistical correlate of inequality." The redistributors can't be bothered with cultural factors when they view everything in terms of dollars and cents. You can raise taxes (maybe), but you can't make or encourage people to keep marriage vows and raise children together.

So raise taxes! Isn't that simple enough? To the redistributors, it is, yes. Simple and sad.

William Murchison's latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson." To find out more about Williams Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... A country does not suddenly get more wealth because the rich got it all... A country does not get more real estate only because the rich got it all... It may be basic economics to anyone who believes in economics as opposed to anarchy, but the rich holding what they have free and clear puts all the rest of us enjoying our poverty on the hook for taxes that too often go to the defense of the property rights of the rich... If the rich will not pay taxes and the religious will not pay taxes that leaves those without privilage paying taxes... Does that seem fair???
When people buy property or accumulate wealth, what they have bought is rights in it... People cannot carve out their own kingdoms, but it is certain that many have tried, and tax law favors them... Ultimately, it is the people who hold all title to the commonwealth, and they are within their right to demand any amount of taxes that will support the privilages that come with ownership... The object of those taxes is to make wealth work for the whole people, even if it is out of our direct control...It may be more efficient to have all farms factory farms or corporation farms with workers rather than owners working the land... All those displaced by this view of efficiency must still be supported as the true owners of that land... There is no free and clear ownership, and there never has been...In Europe, kings never owned more than their own estates, but in a wider sense, even under the most complete feudalism, no person could be said to own the land... Every body had rights in the land, and a claim on its support... In our land, we must recognize many elements of feudalism in our property law, and in many of our terms is revealed the often bloody conflict between king and lords over ownership, control, and taxation of property... There was clearly very little trust between the lords and their kings, but between them, church, lords, and monarch made common cause against the rights of the people...
Here the people are called sovereign.... This does not stop the rich from trying to keep as much of the wealth from the sovereign people, but by not taxing it, it does this people no good... Money in many hands makes many people rich, but money in the bank only makes a banker rich... I say: Force money and property to work, or take it back to the commonwealth where it belongs... If I give you an example, perhaps you will understand... Some few people bought practically the whole upper penninsula of Michigan with only the purpose of exploiting the timber... With the timber gone, they had no use for the land, and let it go back to the government robbed of its value which far exceeded what was paid for it originally... So, the government held this land and made state and national forests of it, and then, with the trees all grown up, the rich demand this land once more to reap the harvest, and then surrender the land to the commonwealth robbed of its value once more... Sure, we should take it, and use it for bait... When people say: Sell us the land for next to nothing; just use that as the cue to string them up...
Consider that the greatest fortunes America has known have been built while the people have been taxed out of their wages... Income was taxed in the beginning out of a general feeling that the monied rich needed to be soaked to bring some justice to those farmers pushed into poverty by taxes... No sooner was the income tax made constitutional than it was pushed down on to lower and lower levels of people...That tax on wages has forced people to work much harder, but the property freed from taxation has increased in price because untaxed it could be held for long periods serving no one, and only for speculation... So the people robbed of their income must borrow and take large mortgages to enjoy some of the privilages of property enjoyed by the rich, and so they are robbed...
I personally believe in taxes to return the commonealth to the people, and these high taxes will make property pay, or force it to be returned to the people where it can be let out to others...To say it as Robin Hood would is a lie... Taxes are not always theft... The rich are given greater access to government and they rule for their own benefit... It is only fair that the rich should pay more for benefits they alone enjoy...Only the taxes on working people are theft because they are taxation without representation...On the right there should be a defense of all wealth in the hands of a relative few because in every other soceity where this has occured social failure, revolution or national defeat has followed... Wealthy people equal defeat for the whole society, and a return of the commonwealth means national rebirth... And it would be better and more peaceful if this could occur constantly through taxes rather than suddenly in bloody revolution...What would the rich prefer???
As long as the rich own the government they will not be taxed, and the society will degrade into ignorance, poverty, and hopelessness.. The people must ask how long they can endure with the government taking from them to give to the rich... To see America sold cheaply to the only class that can afford to bid on it when that class refuses taxes on it, is a crime... This is our land, the land for which our forefather fought and died, and we hold the title, and let it out to serve our interest without ever really leaving our hands... Let the rich pay, or disgorge our wealth finally and forever...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:46 AM
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