Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jefferson on the "redistribution" of wealth

I am not a fan of the term "redistribution" of wealth because it implies that wealth is initially "distributed," thus easing the way towards justifying a re-distribution. In fact, all wealth must first be produced through the combination of human thought and labor. Even natural resources must be identified and collected into a useful form. If a man owns himself, then he surely owns his labor and the fruits of his labor. These facts are the root of man's inalienable right to property.

"To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association -- the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."
-- Thomas Jefferson(1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President Source: Note in Tracy's "Political Economy," 1816


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Excellent point. By using the term "re-distribute" they have used language to move the Overton window and allow for a discussion that otherwise would not have taken place at all.

Since "re-distrubution" is really the theft of property and productive power, we should reframe it every time we talk about it. Call it theft and slavery. That's what it is !

Lynne said...

I saw this terrific quotation this morning and am glad you wrote about it. You both bring up excellent points regarding reasons not to use that misleading phrase. Thanks.

HaynesBE said...

I had to look up "Overton window." Here's what I found on Wikipedia:

"The Overton window, in political theory, describes a "window" in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on a particular issue. It is named after its originator, Joseph P. Overton[1], former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.[2]

At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered to be politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too “extreme” or outside the mainstream to gain or keep public office. Overton arranged the spectrum on a vertical axis of “more free” and “less free” in regards to government intervention. When the window moves or expands, ideas can accordingly become more or less politically acceptable."

Thanks for the comments.

Shane Atwell said...

Like your point about 'redistribution'