There are four innocuous little words that when used together in a sentence always raise my hackles; “For the greater good”. Everything Hitler did was “for the greater good” and it resulted in the deaths of 50 million people. Every Communist regime has always been based on the concept of being “for the greater good” and in the 20th century alone they killed 94 million people across the planet. We can observe the results of the Venezuelan “for the greater good” experiment in real time where significant portions of the population are starving and they are being brutalized for speaking out in protest. It seems to me that these four inoffensive words, instead of being the harbinger of equity and fairness have been at the root of more human misery and suffering than any others in our history. So imagine my surprise (absolutely none) to see these four mild words show up in a Leftist justification of state sponsored confiscation of wealth after you die in The Guardian’s piece “Why not fund the welfare state with a 100% inheritance tax?”
While the author attempts to paint her utopic and naïve view within the British perspective, it is the same arguments that we hear on a frequent basis from Leftists right here in the US. It is the same euphemistic drivel that is trotted out in an endless parade to justify the theft of wealth by the state. They use terms like redistribution, fair share, equitable solutions and universality to dress up what is tantamount to bureaucratic robbery. The author invokes morality several times in the article, arguing that moral obligation to the group trumps any individual concern. The problem when you attempt to use moral arguments to make this point is many on the Left and within government confuse the difference between “need” and “deserve” and never articulate under whose authority are those in government empowered to make those determinations?
What else can you call it when the government seizes lawfully obtained wealth that has already been fairly taxed other than theft? Every year I pay income tax, capital gains tax, property tax, sales tax, local and state tax and a host of other taxes dressed up as license fees and charges. The money that is left over after running this gauntlet of taxes is mine to do with as I please and this includes determining how it is distributed upon my death. My belief that an individual’s liberty supersedes the collective does not end at the moment of a person’s death. How the wealth that one accumulates during life is handled is a choice that they and their family get to make and it does not matter if they leave it to their offspring, donate it to a charity, have it buried with them or put it into a trust to care for a one eye cockatoo. When you begin making moral arguments for state sponsored theft you have already begun descending down the slippery slope.
Many have argued that socialism is great in theory, but bad in practice. I would argue that any system where we steal from one person who earned something and give to another who did not earn it “for the greater good” is inherently unethical as it violates the principles of personal responsibility and liberty which true freedom needs. We can talk about the inefficiency of government redistribution, but the simple fact is the government is a poor steward of our money. Seeing the mismanagement of many government programs like the VA, Medicare and Social Security does not instill me with confidence that if I was forced to relinquish my wealth upon my death that my loved ones would be looked after in a proper fashion. I would rather take the personal responsibility to work hard, invest wisely and save to ensure that if something were to happen to me that my wife and kids would be able to carry on without struggling. If this is how I choose to spend my days then neither the government nor my fellow citizen has any right to demand a share in the wealth that I earned for this purpose.
The author makes several generalizations about those inheriting the wealth not being deserving and their good fortune being a mere byproduct of chance, but this argument is short sighted and greedy. How does this author know which people are deserving? Who are they to judge who is deserving? Is the child that gives up five years to care for an elderly parent not deserving? Is the child that joins the family business and helps keep it profitable not deserving? Is the child who foregoes joining the family business and instead volunteers with the Doctors without Borders not deserving. By this logic anyone who comes into a windfall should be subjected to the same logic. Win the lottery… redistribute. Win big in Vegas… redistribute. Find a valuable artifact while digging in your backyard… redistribute.
In the end, all the author’s arguments are ultimately about control. Giving the government the control of your wealth to ultimately pick the winners and losers. It is socialism hidden in the language of fair play and leveling the playing field. It is the idea that intergenerational wealth means that somewhere along the line it was illegally or immorally obtained. The problem with thinking like this is it starts with seizing all your wealth upon your death and ends with seizing all your wealth while you are alive. It feeds the ravenous beast big government when we should be doing everything in our power to protect our basic freedoms and liberty by starving it instead. When we begin creating political policies on the basis of “for the greater good” we enact a government that places the collective above the rights of the individual allows the evil that occurred to Charlie Gard and his family to not only occur, but to flourish.