Sunday, June 11, 2017

Problems for Libertarianism: History of Wealth Distribution

Imagine, if you will, a community living on a large island.

A group of strong-men living on the island has been spending years accumulating wealth. Mostly, they have done this through strong-arm tactics. They have gone to property owners and commanded that they turn over property or face the consequences. They have enslaved people - forcing people to work on improving their property, planting and harvesting their crops, assembling material in their shops, collecting the benefits in ways that substantially prevented their "workers" from having the opportunity to leave. As a result, this small subset of the population - let us imagine that this top 1% owns half of the island.

NOW that they have accumulated all of this properly - mostly through violence and forces appropriation - they want to institute a new social rule. This rule says that no person can take property from another by force.

It certainly seems quite convenient for those who now own half of the property in the community that NOW they would be so concerned with prohibiting the use of force to redistribute the wealth. That is what they call it, by the way - a term that presumes their rightful ownership when that, in fact, is exactly what is in dispute.

Let's use another example. A thief pulls out a gun and tells you to step into the alley. There, he forces you to hand over your wallet, your watch, and . . . well . . . "that's a nice looking suit you are wearing." Then, after he has taken these things from you, he then announces, "New rule: No person may take property from another person by force."

The timing is quite convenient.

This idea that no person may take the property of another person by force lies at the core of libertarianism. We can see why those people who have already taken a large amount of property from others by force . . . who have, in fact, taken about as much as they can effectively take . . . would then insist that it would be wrong for others to take property by force FROM THEM.

However, would it not still be the case that the robber owes something to the robbed? The extortionist owes something to those from whom they extorted? The slave owner owe something to those he enslaved?

A lot of libertarians, it seems, wants to just blow past this issue as if it does not matter. It is no wonder that this ideology is favored among those who have already accumulated great deals of wealth, and is viewed less enthusiastically from those (and the descendants of those) from whom wealth was taken.

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