A basic premise of the “progressive” (actually, regressive) left is that the rich have too much money and the poor have too little. Therefore, they say, it is justified to take wealth away from the former and give it to the latter. The typical means leftists use to accomplish this is to adopt a steeply progressive tax on income, wealth, and, indeed, anything not nailed down, and transfer the boodle to those in need.
According to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “In order to reduce the outrageous level of inequality that exists in America today and to rebuild the disappearing middle class, we must establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1%.” He also favors “a 95 percent tax on windfall profits of companies that bring in more than $500 million in revenue annually.” Nor is he oblivious to the fact that CEOs earn far more money than the people on the shop floor or assembly line. In his view, “Companies with large gaps between their CEO and median worker pay would see progressively higher corporate tax rates, with the most unequal companies paying five percentage points more in corporate taxes.”
And what would Sanders have the government do with all that mulcted money? He urges that welfare and entitlement programs be stepped up: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, housing subsidies, welfare (e.g., assistance to needy families), nutrition programs, and community health centers, for example. In other words, ship more money to the poor, either directly or indirectly.
There is not a single left liberal who would quarrel with any of that.
But let us dig a little deeper. Why not, instead of transferring money to the poor, combat the qualities and characteristics that are oftentimes responsible for the great disparity of income in the first place, against which Sanders is inveighing?
There are many possible causal effects of these characteristics. Beauty, particularly for women, is one example. Those who are more attractive tend to be richer. A similar effect pertains to height, especially for men: “Statistics show that an extra inch of height translates to an average of $1,000 more annual income — the 6-foot man makes five grand more than his 5’7 colleague.” Nor can it be denied that splendid athletic ability is yet another road to riches. One need only peruse the salaries of even the bench sitters in the NFL, NBA, major league baseball, professional hockey, and other sports to see the truth of this claim. As to the superstars in these sports, their pay is in the stratosphere.
But oftentimes the strongest, most important explanation of the diversity of wealth and income that Sanders abhors so strongly is intelligence. People with higher IQs are likely not only to take home larger pay checks but also to stay out of jail to a greater degree, be healthier, live longer, and experience less unemployment and homelessness.
Bernie, himself, is a poster boy for all these characteristics. While he does not have anything like movie-star good looks, he is more than passable in this regard. He stands at an even 6 feet, pretty tall for someone of his generation. He is 81 years old, in good health, and was a splendid athlete in his youth (he ran the half mile, mile, and 2.5-mile cross-country). He owns several homes and is a multimillionaire. He used to fulminate against millionaires and billionaires, but we now hear nothing about the former, only the latter. Is he intelligent? You don’t get to be a U.S. senator if you are a complete dummy. Of course, he is intellectually gifted.
So let us get to the crux of this issue: why should Bernie be content with simply transferring money from the rich to the poor? Suppose we had a machine that could transfer the characteristics of beauty, height, athleticism, and intelligence from those who possessed them to those who were deficient in them. Would Bernie advocate a compulsory policy of transferring such characteristics? That is, compel, through the force of law, this equalization, this bit of “equity?” If not, why not?
There are only two answers I have ever had from leftists to this challenge. One is that we don’t have any machines capable of such reallocation. The other is that this is a hypothetical, and they refuse to respond to hypotheticals. Needless to say, these answers merely show that left-liberal progressives are loathe to confront the absurdity and injustice of their seize-and-transfer equalization philosophy. They refuse to respond to reductios ad absurdum that take their principles to their logical conclusion and, in the process, show the evil thereof.