A Contract on the Rich

In the Massachusetts senate race Elizabeth Warren has repeatedly referred to a "social contract" that obligates the rich to transfer a greater share of their income to the poor. According to Warren, this conception of the social contract has shaped American society from the very beginning. "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," Warren has declared. The state may allow its more affluent citizens to keep a portion of their wealth, but "part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward to the next kid who comes along." That same argument -- that the collective has a claim on privately earned wealth -- has been showing up a lot these days. It's an argument with a long history among progressives, traceable back to turn-of-the-century leftists such as Eugene Debs, who ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket no less than five times. "We are on the eve of universal change," Debs declared in 1897, and continued declaring it until his...(Read Full Article)

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