There are, of course, undeserving rich, just as there are deserving poor. But most people with money are busily producing more jobs and conveniences for others, and taking great risks to do it. That’s why the market rewards them as it does.
And that is why redistributing their wealth — i.e. socialism — is quite simply theft. It uses the force of the state to reach into the pockets of those who have earned their money and give it to someone who has not. Not only is this not justice, it is destructive to the less fortunate. Suppose the government were to confiscate what Bill Gates has — all $20 billion of it, by a recent count — and distribute it to the homeless or the inner-city poor. We know what would happen to it, because the government does that every other week with welfare payments, taken from those who work and given to those who don’t. It disappears. Sometimes it is used to buy alcohol and drugs that destroy the purchaser over time. Other times it may be used for food and other subsistence necessities. In either case, the money disappears — or, more precisely, it leads to nothing else — at least not for the individuals who are given it.
If Gates keeps his capital, on the other hand, there is a likelihood he will invest it in ways that create jobs, even whole industries, that never existed before. To prevent Gates from doing that by “redistributing” his income diminishes capital needed for a growing economy and expands waste.
Redistribution has grave social and psychological costs as well. It sows resentment and distrust. When liberal enthusiasts inveigh against the 1 percent of the nation who own 50 percent of the wealth, they are inciting passions against the most productive members of the community. That can have catastrophic consequences, as the misery spread over half the globe by the communist revolutions amply demonstrated. In the West, the effects are more subtly corrosive, making it more difficult for entrepreneurs to accomplish their wealth-creating agendas, thus slowing the improvement of conditions for us all.
The idea of “social justice,” as Friedrich Hayek observed long ago, is a mirage, a social fiction of the left. There is no “Society” that distributes income unfairly, and no “Society” that could make the distribution just. Rather, the ability of Gates and other free market entrepreneurs to accumulate billions has transformed the world and not accidentally made life better for millions of people.
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