The following statements, featured in various posts, represent my take on ideas which have become almost embedded in the political discussion as having some sort of unquestioned validity, so much so that they are often the underlying ( and unstated!) premises for many additional assertions. Therefore I view it as imperative that they be addressed for the misconceptions that they are with arguments that render them null and void. This is a form of finding a noxious root, and excising it.
Conventional Wisdom Re: Justice and Fairness: A society can only be considered just if its societal arrangements result in an equal distribution of income and wealth, goods and services, and opportunities, or if not equal, then arrangements that result in minimal inequality of these, consistent with the collective welfare of the society.
I have devoted three entire posts to the topic of Justice and Fairness in order to counter the pervasive harm the careless use of the accusation “it’s not fair!” does in political and moral discourse. In these posts I define terms, discuss various kinds of justice principles advocated by multiple quality thinkers on the subject and pose questions which you may not have considered, especially if you have been in the habit of swallowing whole the argument-from-assertion that constitutes most appeals to fairness these days.
Conventional Wisdom Re: Profits. Although it would appear that profits are a necessary part of a market based economy, they are considered suspect and must be both limited and controlled to prevent exploitation and the excesses of greed.
Profits are widely reviled by those on the Left. I have striven to show that entrepreneurs both are entitled to profits and also deserve their profits due strictly to the definition of what it means to be entitled to something and/or to deserve something. See Justice and Fairness, Part Three.
Conventional Wisdom Re: Taxes: Those who have higher incomes should pay taxes at a progressively higher rate than those with more moderate incomes.
This concept is the keystone to the egalitarian/redistributive point of view; without it people might actually be free to realize their own aspirations by keeping what belongs to them. Yes, I said belongs!! You see, when one has such an animus against property and to including rights to property as among the most fundamental, the notion of legitimate belonging is also a foreign one. I have tried to find some well reasoned arguments as to why it is either moral or practical to use force to take property away from its rightful owners just because some of them have more of it. At the root, ( there’s that word again!) every argument I have seen for progressive taxation is reduced to this—we can ( and should) tax people who have more to generate a higher total tax.
I have always been amazed that the pundits on radio and TV, regardless of their party or orientation, always seem to accept the notion that fairness consists of everyone paying at least the same tax rate while ignoring how the person’s total income influences the amount sent to the government. If Warren Buffet paid taxes at the 15% rate and his secretary paid her taxes at the 28% rate, why this is considered anathema, and it seems to make no difference to anyone that 15% of $ 62,855,038 is about $ 9.4 million in tax paid while 28% of, say $ 80,000 ( I am just guessing here at the secretary’s salary) is $ 22,400. Now I used to teach basic math and my calculation shows that Warren Buffet paid about 420 times his secretary’s tax. What benefits from his contribution to government could accrue to Mr. Buffet that are not also available to the secretary that they would even remotely justify such a disproportionate tax? Go figure.
More Conventional Wisdom to come later…