Confiscating wealth in the name of fairness

An excellent article in the June issue of Commentary Magazine, taking to task President Obama’s broad attacks on the wealth-producers in American society in the name of fairness.  Author Francis Cianfrocca in “Wealth creation under attack”  points out the flaws in this reasoning:

The United States is organized on the principle of the consent of the governed. Power and legitimacy do not flow from the state to the people, but the other way around. In this respect, what individuals do is entirely their own business, just so long as they do not violate the law or the sovereignty of other citizens. Generating wealth is therefore no different from any other private human activity; it is and should remain private, outside the reach of government, until the point at which it impinges on others.

This is a philosophical understanding of American society with which Obama and his policymakers are not in immediate sympathy. They are not opposed to wealth generation; nothing they say indicates any such thing. But they do not see it as a private activity. Rather, they see it as a human endeavor that can and should be harnessed to aid in producing the social changes they believe are most beneficial for the greatest number of people. In the view of the Obamaites, private wealth is not a bad thing, but neither is it a good thing; it is only good if it can be used in furtherance of large-scale public goals.

But this understanding is deeply flawed, because it fails to take into account the factors that motivate the generation of wealth. Those who work to get rich are not doing so because they are seeking to provide enhanced tax receipts for the government, or to make it easier for government to do what elected officials and unelected bureaucrats think is best. They are, rather, fulfilling basic human desires—to excel, to succeed, to best the other person, to show the old man. Those desires provide the drive. The drive provides the wealth. The wealth provides the ancillary benefit for others. And the act of wealth creation itself creates opportunities for others. Americans pursue business and wealth for their own reasons, and we should be deeply hesitant to throw those out with the proverbial bathwater. The unintended consequences of such action could be catastrophic.

Cianfrocca concludes with an eloquent paen to freedom — and the ability to create wealth:

More generally, the United States under Barack Obama may be taking a hatchet to a pillar of the American social contract, which is that Americans should be free of encumbrance in their pursuit of private wealth. The pursuit of prosperity made America the most prosperous nation on earth. The excessive pursuit of fairness at the expense of wealth creation will not make America fairer. It will, however, make America poorer—and less free.