2011-03-22

the rich and the poor

For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.


Some people have more material wealth than others. Is this immoral? Can we solve this problem politically? How?



I generally approach any political discussion from the inside out. What I want is peace, compassion, joy, freedom. Especially peace. I believe that peace can't be achieved through violence. I want a system where I can live peacefully if I choose to. Right now, I can't live peacefully without making great sacrifice; if I earn any significant income, I must pay income taxes which are in turn used to inflict violence on others. In a way it's connected to my very survival, which causes a deep and painful conflict of interest; I can have my survival, or non-harming, but not both.

To me, this is an illness of the system, and its correction requires either the abolishment of the income tax or the end of government violence. Both would be fine. The income tax is a form of violence all on it's own, and the whole idea of taxing some to pay welfare to others, while often well-meaning, still relies on an aggressive, violent, reductionist view of the world. Taxation/welfare is reductionist in this way: when I force one person to relinquish the fruits of his labor to give to another, seemingly more needy person, I've taken what could be a true act of generosity, and reduced it to stealing and charity. Our pocketbooks may wind up more equal, but the world is poorer. That's not what I want, and it's not a gift to the world.

I have only read the bible once, but I was searching for something related and found this:




From Mark 10:21: Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack, he said. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.



What would the world be if we lived in a place where this act of generosity was not possible? Not possible because the whole notion of giving has been replaced by a decision that's made externally, by the state?

So yes, the disparity between the rich and poor is sad, but I'm not sure how or if it can be solved. In fact, Jesus said "there will be poor always," which makes me suspect that, biblically speaking, it's not a problem for us to solve. At any rate, I can't support a policy which purports to solve the disparity through any form of violence, no matter how indirect.

Economically speaking, I believe we'll all do better if we keep ourselves free of force-based solutions. The future I envision, desire, and intend to work towards is a world of plenty, not scarcity. In fact, I think the world is already plentiful; for example, there's more than enough food to feed 15 billion people if we were to stop feeding all of our grains to animals which we then eat.

When we think of scarcity, we think of a big pie that has to be divvied up. This generally leads to a struggle over who gets what piece of the pie, and some interests set up force-based systems (laws) to ensure that their piece remains bigger than others'.

When we think instead of plenty, we realize that to grow richer we do not have to take from the poor. Instead, through trade, innovation, and the free exchange of ideas, we move together towards a richer and more plentiful world.

This article discusses one part of this puzzle that I think is often missing from discussions:

https://www.mises.org/LIBERAL/CH1SEC5.ASP

I have the right to give love; I have the right to act peacefully; I do not have the right to receive love except when it is given freely; I do not have the right to receive peace except when it is given freely.

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