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Published July 07, 2011 in Persuasion by Michael Cloud
"These government programs and policies take us closer to -- or are -- the redistribution of wealth," say pundits, bloggers, and talk radio hosts. Then they expose and explain and attack the "redistribution of wealth."
Some bring light to the subject. Others just heat.
Will you empty your mind of all you know and believe about "the redistribution of wealth?" Will you look at the matter with fresh eyes and an open mind?
Will you "examine your premises," as Ayn Rand wisely counseled?
Ask: What is the redistribution of wealth?
First, the meaning of the key words: "wealth" and "redistribution."
"Wealth" means all goods, services, or information that have economic value. Usually money or goods.
To understand "redistribution," we need to first grasp the meaning of "distribution."
"Distribute" means to deliver, disperse, spread, give out, or hand out. "Distribution" means the act of distributing or condition of being distributed.
"Redistribute" means to distribute again. "Redistribution" is the act of distributing again or the condition of being distributing again.
Wealth is first distributed when each of us earns or produces it.
Every transfer afterwards is redistribution.
When you barter, you redistribute wealth.
When you buy or sell, you redistribute wealth.
When you give or receive gifts or charity, you redistribute wealth.
When you borrow or loan money, you redistribute wealth.
Every voluntary transfer of wealth is redistribution. A free market is a mechanism for voluntary redistribution of wealth.
But there is also the involuntary, coerced, forced redistribution of wealth.
Armed robbery is a coerced transfer of wealth.
Burglary is, too.
Embezzlement and fraud are coerced transfers of wealth.
So is extortion.
I support each person's right to freely choose, to voluntarily redistribute his own wealth.
I oppose the criminal, coercive, involuntary redistribution of a person's wealth.
Don't you? Isn't this the litmus test for being a libertarian?
I'd wager that most of the critics of the redistribution of wealth would agree with you and me -- up to this point.
But then they'd add, "I'm talking about the GOVERNMENT'S redistribution of wealth."
Every tax transfers money from the man or women who earned it to the government.
Every tax redistributes wealth. Then the government again redistributes the wealth to government contractors, government employees, politically-privileged special interests, and other beneficiaries.
Every government mandate on private citizens and private businesses redistributes wealth.
Many government laws and regulations redistribute wealth.
So, do these critics oppose ALL "government redistribution of wealth?" All taxes? All government spending?
Or, are they just against certain KINDS of "government redistribution of wealth?" Or for certain purposes? Or for certain individuals or groups?
Or, are they only against these KINDS or these PURPOSES when "the other political party" controls the White House, Senate, or House of Representatives?
Some critics are engaging in self-serving, misleading propaganda.
But many largely agree with the libertarian principle. Not totally. But mostly.
If they examine their premises, many will reject the phrasing and framing of the two-edged slogan. They will find better concepts and language to oppose Big Government -- to endorse and advocate individual liberty, personal responsibility, and small government.
Michael Cloud is author of the acclaimed book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, available exclusively from the Advocates.