Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Moral Man

Over the last few months, I have read and listened to a number of people on the left describe the moral duty of Americans to help the poor. Because of this, they believe that we need to raise taxes, specifically on the wealthiest Americans, to accomplish this.

Many of us are repulsed by this kind of thinking straight away, but let’s really examine what these people are saying.

Who has a moral duty to help the poor? Don’t we all? So, if I vote to tax the wealthy, when I am not wealthy, and use the money to pay government workers to help the poor when I am not a government worker, have I done a moral thing? How can it be moral for someone to volunteer none of their own money and none of their own time towards those in need? Did Jesus tell the rich young ruler to confiscate his neighbor’s possessions and give them to the poor? Of course not, that would be nonsense. It would also be nonsense to believe that someone is doing a moral thing by forcing the rich to help the poor. They should remove the plank from their own eye before removing the speck in another’s.

Now are the rich doing something moral by paying taxes to help the poor? How can we consider an act moral if it is by compulsion? It may be moral not to cheat on your taxes, but it is not a moral act merely to obey the law. Recently, the press reported the “heroic” acts of Billionaire Warren Buffett when he requested that Congress raise his taxes. Was this a moral request? Hardly. What is stopping Warren Buffett from cutting out the middleman and simply writing a check? The government accepts donations. No, Warren Buffett wants to volunteer other people’s money and he wants to be on TV so that he can make a spectacle of his generosity. It is not a moral act to volunteer other people’s money.

Wouldn’t it be moral to take money from rich people since they got that money by taking advantage of the little guy? If Warren Buffett made his $30 Billion by taking advantage of other people, surely he should go to jail, not just pay some taxes. By using this excuse to tax everyone above a certain level, we are claiming that every single one of them did something immoral to gain that money. This is absurd. Should they all go to jail? Is it moral to take away money from every person because they have or make significant sums of money? This claim lacks proof, so it is not moral to take money away from someone simply because of a high income.

Is it moral for the poor to help themselves by volunteering the money of the rich? Of course not, you can’t use the government to enrich yourself and call it moral.

It is not moral for the poor to tax the rich for their own gain. Nor is it moral for the middle class to tax the rich to help the poor. Nor is it moral for the rich to avoid prison by paying their taxes. So is taxing the rich to help the poor a moral thing? How can it be moral when neither the poor, the middle class, nor the rich are individually doing anything moral? It is not, and therefore it is not a moral thing to tax the rich to help the poor.

It is moral to choose privately to help those in need. It is moral to give and not seek acclaim. It is moral to spend one’s own time becoming involved in the lives of those who need a brief reprieve from life’s storms, or who cannot do for themselves. It is moral to become aware of how to best serve those in need and not just assume that money will fix all the problems. It is moral to choose to help, it is not moral to be compelled to help.

In this New Year, I hope that all of us can find a way to help those in need as best we can, and not just point the finger and whine about what’s fair.

I also hope that all of you had a Merry Christmas and will have a wonderful New Year. It’s amazing that I sent out my first post almost six months ago. I appreciate all the feedback and criticism I have received so far. I have grown by leaps and bounds doing the research for posts and the discussions I have had with many of you via e-mail and the blog.

As always, tell me what you think.


Jonboy said...

As Warren Buffet also pointed out, he pays less in taxes than does his middle class assistant. Therefore, since the rich are better at legally avoiding taxes. It is the middle class that ultimately ends up paying.

Brian Shelley said...

Welcome to the blog Jonboy!

I will have to look for the link, but there was an article written by a CPA that showed that Warren Buffett paid a much lower income tax rate in 2006 because he made a multi-billion dollar donation to charity. (Loopholes are another reason I support the flat tax.)

Interestingly, on Saturday, the National Center for Policy Analysis published a report that shows that between 1990 and 2004, the tax code became increasingly progressive. That is, that higher income people were paying an increasing share of the total tax burden.


Specifically I wrote this argument to counteract the idea that "We should tax the rich, to give to the poor". What is a reasonable argument is that the rich are more able to pay taxes when the nation as a whole needs something, like national defense, court system, etc... Having higher taxes on higher income individuals is reasonable in these circumstances. If we are being invaded it would obviously make no sense to tax the average person into starvation to save the country while the wealthy still had plenty of resources.