“It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral, self-righteous, bullying laziness.” – Penn Jillette
In part one of my series on Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism, I argued that it was not corporations that bear the burden of wealth inequality, but the government, which created the game board on which those corporations play. I also proposed a solution. In part two, I discussed how a progressive tax system begs an unanswerable question: What is fair? I also noted that such systems disincentivize hard work.
In part three, I want to talk about charity. In part one, I used an analogy to describe inherent advantages large corporations have that the average person does not:
“Imagine a piece of candy placed on a high shelf. Then imagine that the person who put the piece of candy on the high shelf tells a 6-year-old and a 12-year-old that whomever can reach the candy can have it. Who gets the candy? Obviously, the 12-year-old. He’s smarter, more developed, and taller. Is it the 12-year-old’s fault that he can reach the candy? No. It’s the fault of the person who put it on the shelf.”
I followed this analogy by arguing that there are those would say the 12-year-old should feel obligated to give some of his candy to the 6-year-old. I didn’t forget.
So, should those who are more wealthy feel obligated to help the less fortunate? Yes. We’re taught this basic principle in the bible. But let me divert the conversation for a moment to make a sub-point.
The reason large corporations have such advantages, as I mentioned in part one, is that they have the time and money to navigate the regulatory monstrosity put in place by the federal government. They have the ability to take advantage of all the loopholes and sundries that small businesses and individuals do not. However, in part one, I also offered a partial solution to this problem: A flat tax system.
As it currently stands, the entire reason the 12-year-old has the advantage of reaching the candy is because the government puts the candy on the high shelf. With a flat tax, in which everyone pays the same percentage of their income, eliminating loopholes, the candy is placed in a neutral area where the 12-year-old no longer has those inherent advantages. That is part of the solution.
This brings me to my main point: Charity versus coerced wealth redistribution.
Just as we cannot simply ask the government to raise the candy to an even higher shelf, making it more difficult for the 12-year-old to reach (further regulation), we also cannot ask the government to take the piece of candy away from the 12-year-old and hand it to the 6-year-old. That’s not fair, and it’s not their job.
First, we must make things equal by enacting a flat tax, eliminating loopholes. Beyond that, it is up to us to give to charity or to organizations we believe are deserving of our money.
Democratic Socialism gives the government the power to redistribute everyone’s wealth via higher taxes on those who earn more. But what are the consequences of such a practice?
At best, it’s lazy, and at worst, it’s deplorable. If Bernie Sanders were elected president, and he enacted a policy taxing the rich at much higher rates, to whom would the money go? It’s up to Bernie, as well as those in the Senate and House. Essentially, we would be involuntarily giving our money to politicians who would turn around and subsidize whatever they feel is right and good. But what Bernie Sanders feels is right and good may not be what you think is right and good.
Personally, I’m pro-life, meaning I don’t want a penny of my tax dollars going to “help” women terminate their children. I have that right. But if I were to vote for someone like Sanders, who is pro-choice, it’s almost guaranteed that he would provide more funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, whose practices I find disgusting. When we make the government the executor of our money, we lose control over where it goes.
It’s far better to have more of our own money to help the people and organizations we believe are good.
To wrap up this series, I feel the need to emphasize some differences between Democratic Socialism and conservatism (which necessarily includes free-market capitalism)–not to be confused with the crony capitalism we have going on now, in which the government colludes with certain large corporations to help them thrive at the expense of everyone else.
Democratic Socialists believe they get to decide what’s fair–an unanswerable question when speaking of progressive taxes. They believe that those who earn more automatically owe something to those who earn less, not because they screwed someone over, but simply by virtue of having more. They believe the government should decide who and what gets subsidized; they want to be the executors of our money.
Conservatives believe in a system that allows everyone to stand on equal footing regarding what they pay to their government. You earn $10, you pay $1; you earn $100,000, you pay $10,000. We believe in a system of incentives that drives altruism. To succeed for oneself and one’s family, one must help others, or else fail to thrive. We believe that no person owes another person simply for being successful. And we believe that we are better executors of our own money in terms of charity than the federal government can ever be.
I would urge those who look to Bernie Sanders and those like him with admiration to reevaluate their position. The necessity for change does not guarantee the viability of every solution. Some are better than others, and Democratic Socialism is not the way.
I’ll leave you with two important videos.
In this video, George Gilder explains why capitalism works as well as it does:
And in the following video, the late, great economist Milton Friedman talks about why capitalism is the best economic system yet devised: