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Your gold-medal performance

Mon, August 27, 2007   |   Author: Ron Gray   |   | Share: Facebook | Twitter   

Rabbi Daniel Lapin relates a story told to him by economist Walter Williams-which I here adapt for a Canadian audience.

Reach into your pocket. Take out a loonie. What colour is it? It's gold.

If you earned that dollar, you are holding in your hand a gold medal-your reward for a superior performance. If you did not steal it, nor prevail upon a government agency to confiscate it from someone else and give it to you, that dollar is a gold medal you won for meeting someone's needs.

Professor Williams' point is that government redistribution of wealth is like any other form of theft: wealth is taken from someone who earned it, and given to someone who did not. The socialist delusion is that this is somehow 'moral'; but it is really exactly the opposite.

On the other hand, there's nothing more moral than increasing the world's wealth by earning some for yourself through meeting the needs of others.

Rabbi Lapin compares business profitability with charity, using this example: suppose you were in need, and 'Jones' offered to give you $10. That would be charity. You get $10, but Jones is $10 poorer.

Now suppose' Smith' presents you with a business plan by which, if you help him earn $500, he'll give you $100 of it. You get $100-and Smith gets $400. Is that unjust? No, because he gave you the opportunity-and the dignity-of earning your money; you got ten times as much as Jones' charity, and everyone is better off.

The point of the rabbi's story is this: while there's nothing wrong with charity, the opportunity and dignity of earning your living is better.

But now suppose Smith earns $500, the government takes half and gives you $50; the rest is eaten up by "administrative costs"-salaries for bureaucrats. Smith is less well-off, you are less well-off, and the main beneficiary is the bureaucrat who abused the coercive power of government to redistribute Smith's wealth.

Socialists often bad-mouth business for benefiting from their good works; they insist, instead, on government redistribution of wealth-but it's really just theft by government-just as Frédéric Bastiat wrote 250 years ago



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