Redistribution and the Lesson the Left Refuses to Learn

Human beings that excel beyond their peers in labor and industry should reap the rewards for their exceptional efforts and talents.

That’s as simple as it gets, and not coincidentally, it’s built into our nation’s foundation.  The ability to reap those ample rewards for effort and talent is the very essence of liberty.  Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association – “the guarantee to every one of a free exercise to his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.”

That is liberty, the idea set firmly in place long ago.  It is this idea and the incentive therein which drives success and greatness.

But in direct defiance to that principle, the government continues pitching the notion that a man isn’t entitled to the fruits of his labor and industry, but only the portion of those fruits which the masses and the representatives governing them might allow through popular votes, however much he might object.  

“What’s wrong with that? That’s democracy!” the left will cry. 

Who cares?  “Democracy” is nothing more than a mantelpiece, bled dry of its practical currency by contemporary politics and redistributive rhetoric to the point that it no longer represents anything of value.  That word may be bandied about as a sacred precept of America, but this is necessary to repeat: democracy is nothing without American principles of liberty set firmly in place.

To illustrate, consider an old maxim that holds extraordinarily true from all angles: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding upon dinner.”  In other words, democracy can very well be mob rule and the absence of liberty.  The lamb in this scenario has no liberty, and no power to change the consensus opinion for the betterment of its own life.  In America, however, the lamb would have an unalienable right to continued life.  An unalienable right to denounce the wolves’ opinion on the subject of dinner.  And the lamb would have the unalienable right to exercise his industry and thereby play a crucial role in a continued coexistence and the future success of all those involved in the discussion.

Liberty is the idea that America should foster.  Democracy alone can be every bit as much evil as good in the absence of liberty.

The main problem for the left, it seems, is that success is often a function of profit.  And according to Karl Marx (whose ideas they adhere to whether or not they’d admit it or even realize it), market transactions should be zero-sum trades, where there is no leftover value to be collected by either party as “profit.”  Marx’s solution to the plague of “profit” was simple.  The State should collect any excess value and redistribute it among the masses, as any excess “profit” would have been wrongfully earned, with one party having exploited the other. 

The problem for the rest of us, however, is that once the government is introduced into this marketplace, the profits of success are nothing more than fodder allowing the government to demonize profits.  The “fruits of industry” become ill-gotten gains that must necessarily be redistributed for the greater good, and most importantly, for the good of the government that has been appointed to administrate the redistribution.

George Orwell actually wrote an incredible book describing this very peculiar social dynamic, but no need for more animal metaphors.  This is actually just a basic observation of human nature, and about the left’s complete misunderstanding of it.

Progressives express shock, for example, that a company like Burger King will be moving its operational headquarters to Canada for a favorable tax treatment.  And despite being an act predicated upon the very founding principles of this country, it is viewed as an unpatriotic to American sensibilities, not an exercise in liberty.

Burger King has apparently deemed American corporate taxation intolerable, and has sought a more favorable situation.  Nothing is more fundamental to American principles or successful industry. 

But there’s a certain undeniable inconsistency in their outrage.

I’ve heard more than a few times from my leftist friends: “If you don’t like the heavy taxation being proposed, then, well, you can just leave.  Go somewhere else.  This is democracy at work,” and blah, blah, blah.  My usual response is, “Well, if I and other producers financing these grand redistributive schemes do leave, who will be left to finance what you seek to build?”

There’s never a good answer for that question.  Generally, the response is something vague about America being such a great place that reasonable people and businesses wouldn’t want to leave in the first place.  But while they’re very quick to tell me that I can leave (knowing that I likely won’t), they’re outraged that Burger King would take its sizable contribution to the government coffers to another country that is vying for its business with lower corporate tax rates!

If, in principle, it’s okay to wave goodbye to more ordinary taxpayers on the basis of disagreement about American tax rates, then why is it suddenly wrong and unpatriotic for Burger King to seek shelter from the crushing weight of American corporate tax rates, which are now the highest in the developed world?

Again, there’s no consistency in the argument.  Anger only arises when they feel the practical outcome of wealth redistribution is impeded by examples that are highly visible.  But the visible examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

For example, Gerard Depardieu made news when he fled France for Belgium in the wake of Francois Hollande’s election as a socialist who “hates the rich” and sought to tax wealthy Frenchmen at a rate of 75%.  He was called unpatriotic by French politicians and media, a fat drunk, on and on.  But Gerard wasn’t alone in leaving.  Others followed suit.  A multitude of rich, young French citizens have fled France’s proposed welfare state to places where they might better enjoy the fruits of their industry.  

Now, Francois Hollande has dissolved France’s government. Socialism, as I predicted, has broken France.

The lesson that we should have learned long ago, though I imagine the American left will still refuse to learn it, is that successful industry, like people, will go where they have more liberty.  And if America now offers less liberty to producers than other nations, we should be neither shocked nor angry when they exercise their right to self-determination.

William Sullivan blogs at: and can be followed on Twitter.