The subject of wealth redistribution is again in the news in connection with a presidential campaign involving Barack Obama. No doubt you remember the 2008 campaign encounter with Joe the Plumber in which candidate Obama said that it was good to “spread the wealth around.”
Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, September 21, 2012.
Now, an audio recording has come to light of a speech that then Illinois State Senator Obama delivered to Loyola University on October 19, 1998. In that speech he said;
“I think the trick is how do structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution? Because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
The money phrase in that quote is, “…make sure that everybody’s got a shot.” Because it’s not about everyone having a “shot.”
It’s about equality of results.
Far left liberals are not content with everyone having the same opportunity to go and make of their lives all that their talent, hard work, sacrifice and passion will earn them. Far left liberals believe that “a shot” means having essentially the same wealth, the same income and the same standing in society irrespective of talent, hard work, sacrifice and passion.
Against that belief, I offer the classic story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
You know the story. Ebeneezer Scrooge was a tight-fisted, cold-hearted, miserly old man who earned his income by making usurious loans to people of little means. He had plenty of customers.
The mid-19th century England of Charles Dickens was a society in which the equality of wealth and income that today’s liberals so fervently seek had been attained to a very high degree.
Scrooge made his living making what we now call “payday loans.” Scrooge’s loan customers borrowed from him at ruinous rates of interest in a day-to-day struggle for the very basics of life. Upwards of 60 percent of the population lived in poverty in the England of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Such poverty looked nothing like the poverty of 21st century America, in which the majority of those said to be under the poverty line have air conditioning, cable TV and cellular phones. The poverty chronicled by Charles Dickens was instead a dark, grinding, hopeless and utterly inescapable poverty against which no amount of natural talent or hard work could have any effect.
Kindly gentlemen in toppers and tails entreating old Scrooge to make “some slight provision for the poor” were outnumbered hundreds of times to one by people in ragged clothes who struggled to get enough to eat.
In 19th century England most people were born in to poverty, lived mean, hard, short lives in poverty and died in poverty.
Which is to say that to the extent that any society anywhere on Earth at any time in history has enjoyed widely-dispersed equality of income and wealth, that equality was an equality of unalloyed hopelessness and unremitting misery.
Yet there was a ray of sunshine in the poverty statistics of 19th century England during which “A Christmas Carol” is set. That shaft of light consisted of the fact that the poverty rate was down from the over 80 percent that prevailed on the day in 1789 when the United States Constitution took effect.
Though the United States was still a very young country in 1843, it was nonetheless already seeing the effect of the American experiment. That experiment consisted of a government constrained by enumerated powers and dedicated to the free exercise of economic opportunity by individuals irrespective of the circumstances of their birth.
England, the most powerful merchant nation on Earth at the time, began emulating some of what it saw happening in its former colonies and poverty began to recede.
The system of free enterprise born concurrently with the new American constitution would go on to make poverty the exception that it is today rather than the rule that it was in England and Europe throughout the entirety of their blood-soaked histories.
All of this to say that the economic equality that liberals say they want has been attained before and can be attained again.
But such equality is an equality of misery — the kind of misery that was appalling to Charles Dickens.