The 'Gimme Mine' mentality and the American Spirit

No emotionally stable person viscerally likes inequality. Within both conservatives and liberals lives a strong distaste for what poverty does to people. Recognizing this universal revulsion, in The Quest for Cosmic Justice, Thomas Sowell wonders "why do... inequalities persist? Why are we not all united in our determination to put an end to them?"

In the way of explanation, Sowell offers a quote by Economist Milton Friedman:

A society that puts equality--in the sense of equality of outcome--ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.

The human suffering that existed in the Soviet Union and Mao's China illustrated the truth of Friedman's assertion. The social and economic price tags associated with forcibly redistributing life's outcomes are too high. So why do liberals (progressives) ignore the costs of wealth redistribution? Do they refuse to see? Do they see but not care?

Liberals cling to emotionalism, while conservatives and libertarians take a pragmatic approach to the prospect of equalizing life's outcomes. Liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike feel bad that some people suffer poverty. But responses to the bad feeling differ dramatically.

Desperate to escape the feeling, liberals advocate equalization of life's outcomes, ignoring the approach's non-achievability and societal downsides. On the other hand, conservatives and libertarians face bad feelings head-on, confident that sound logic applied to unvarnished truth best yields human progress. Conservatives and libertarians recognize key realities: hard work, minimal government interference, unleashed businesses, and low taxes create jobs, moving people from poverty to prosperity. Acknowledging such facts requires no mental gymnastics or philosophical epiphany, merely an understanding of human history and human nature. Liberals seem genuinely incapable of such straightforward logic. Not a slur, a product of observation.

A recent Gallup poll suggests that the liberal viewpoint on inequality is losing ground in America after temporarily crowding out the conservative/libertarian viewpoint. Back in 1998, 45 percent of Americans surveyed said that government should forcibly redistribute wealth. By 2007, the number had grown to 49 percent. But now, after a huge recession and still in the midst dreary economic times and high unemployment, we Americans seem to be regaining our senses. Gallup's 2011 numbers indicate that 2007's percentages have been reversed: 49 percent now reject forced wealth redistribution. Of no great surprise is the Democrat-Republican split: 71 percent of Dems want government to forcibly take wealth from some people and give it to others, while nearly as high a percentage of Republicans oppose the tactic.

One pair of statistics reveals something refreshing about today's America. While only 47 percent of respondents want government to redistribute wealth, 57 percent believe that wealth is indeed unfairly distributed. So while most people don't like big disparities in net worth, some of the same people don't want government closing the gap. Perhaps compassionate but levelheaded Americans want government to stop rewarding underachievement.

The Gallup poll also contains something truly stunning. Thirty-one percent of respondents believe that America contains too many rich people, while only a fifth think that there are too few. In other words, half-again as many respondents favor an America populated by poorer people than by richer people. Instead of taking the view that if more people were wealthy, then more money would flow into more businesses, employing more people, and creating greater prosperity, the dark side of human nature appears more prevalent in today's America: "Since I am not rich, other people shouldn't be rich."

Nearly a third of Americans holding the dark side view does not bode well for recovery from our Obama-turbocharged bout with class warfare. The work ethic seems damaged, the American spirit in jeopardy. Worse still, Gallup shows that the number of dark-siders has increased by 50 percent in twenty years.

On the other hand, today's 31 percent who favor forced wealth redistribution represent a drop from an all-time high of 37 percent in the year before Obama was elected. So then, is the "Gimme mine" mentality eating America alive, or is a six percentage point drop indicative of Americans waking up to the moral and economic bankruptcy of Barack Obama's class warfare mantra? The answer will grow clear in early November 2012.


A writer, physicist, former high tech executive, and Cajun, Chuck Rogér invites you to sign up to receive his "Clear Thinking" blog posts by email at Contact Chuck at

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