"Liberals just want to take money that isn't theirs and give it to people who didn't earn it" is the sort of thing I've heard from conservatives many times.
This often comes up when talking about taxing the rich, and it makes me wonder, if you shouldn't get money if you didn't earn it, did the rich actually earn all that money?
How did Bill Gates "earn" $70 billion or whatever it is he's worth at the moment? If I go out and break a sweat tossing bales forks full of hay onto the back of a truck on a 90F day, and I get paid minimum wage for it, I know I've earned that money.
Bill Gates makes money every day and probably doesn't even know where it's coming from. Does he "earn" that money?
If you have a job, it's a job someone else doesn't have. In a sense, it came from them. The same with wealth: if you have a million dollars, it's a million dollars someone else doesn't have. In a sense, it came from them.
Anyway, it seems to me that it's a stretch to say that a lot of wealth was actually earned in any meaningful way, so what is the problem with redistributing it?
Well, sometimes its hard to tease apart this sort of thing, but, as a rule of thumb, if your actions resulted in what you got, you earned what you got.
The other aspect is supply and demand.
Manhandling 100 lb sacks might be "harder" than paying $50 for some code that can later be rented out and earn billions..but, its apparently easier to FIND PEOPLE to handle the sacks, and harder to find ones with code.
We don't get compensated for how hard it is to DO the work. We get compensated for how hard it is to get someone to do the work.
Some people get lucky, like Gates, and became billionaires due to a lucky break which then allowed them access to unleash their true potential.
Others get the same break and blow it....or capitalize on the break, but can't cultivate it into further breaks, etc.
Others never get a break at all. They can have all the raw potential in the world, and get born to a starving mom in Ethiopia, bitten by a mosquito when 1 year old, and barely survive let alone flourish/become a billionaire, etc.
You could be a financial genius who never could get starting capital....or an average human who wins the lottery, and so forth.
Did the guy who won the lottery "earn" that money?
Sure, he invested $1 in a lottery ticket, and, it paid him off in millions. Low effort, high reward, but, earned.
His action was buying the ticket.
Did Gates earn his money? Sure, he lucked out when the professor IBM was GOING TO buy code from (An operating system for IBM computers), wasn't allowed to speak to them, because his wife thought they were rude...went to Gates (and his soon to be apple buddy) instead.
The brilliant move, that COULD HAVE BACKFIRED, was NOT selling them the code, even though they offered a lot of money to buy it. He said, here. its free, just give me a percent of sales.
IBM thought THEY were getting the best deal ever, and the rest is history.
The royalties were then parlayed into an empire.
So, capitalization on a big break, and, yup, the money was earned.
If that professor's wife was less concerned with IBM's rudeness, we may never have heard of Bill Gates, or Apple Computer...let alone Microsoft or windows.
And the same if Gates et al had not bought that code for $50 from another student.
But isn't a lot of what seems in the rear view mirror to be "shrewd business" actually just something that turned out well? Certainly, a lot of other random things fell into place that turned Microsoft into a behemoth, not just one shrewd decision that could have been derailed by circumstances that, happily for Mr. Gates, never occurred.
It's amazing to me how little of their success the wealthy and prosperous attribute to good luck and breaks they got along the way, not to mention help.
And since I don't believe in free will, I'm even more reticent to attribute success to decisions arising from a morally superior intellect, and without that moral superiority, the words "s/he earned it" seem to mean quite a bit less, and the advantages of wealth seem less deserved.
In other words, isn't a lot of the accumulation of wealth like winning a lottery?
But that's how everything works in real life.
It IS like winning the lottery, or not winning, for most people.
One guy might prospect for gold, and find barely a nugget, and another guy might find tons.
They might have both looked just as hard, etc, but, one looked where it was.
Some, like Warren Buffet, read a library book on investing when he was 12, and simply followed its advice.
Some read the same book, and, well, forgot to return it and had to pay a fine, instead of parlaying the knowledge into billions.
There are different types of people, and some can capitalize on opportunities better than others...and then its just about who GETS the opportunities.
If you want to say if you and I go fishing, and I catch 4 fish and you get skunked, that neither of us gets a fish because we should be equally dividing the catch with all of mankind, fine...I just don't think too many will go fishing with you.
Society can say that we all have to chip in some of what we have, as dues so to speak, to help the needy, build infrastructure, etc...but I don't believe that everyone on the planet is under some obligation to divvy up everything among everyone else.
I don't think being born = you are entitled to a share of everything that exists.
Its a nice idea, but, in real life, taking away the motivation to do anything, stops things from happening that are rewarded.
Why work if you get the same as if you don't?
Why work harder if you get the same as if you did nothing/worked lazily?
Human nature has essentially been driven this way
It seems to me you're avoiding the issue.
The #1 predictor of success in business isn't intelligence or wisdom or being nice, it's having a psychopathic personality.
While Bill Gates may have turned out to be perhaps the #1 philanthropist in the world (perhaps due mostly to the influence of his wife), his rise to wealth and power is characterized by psychopathic ruthlessness, a willingness to win even at the expense of ruination for others. He left a lot of corporate "bodies" in the wake of Microsoft's success.
Is that "earning" his wealth?
Steve Jobs, who hardly understood the meaning of the word "philanthropy," may not have been quite as ruthless in his dealings with other businesses, but he was often a cruel slave-driver taskmaster within the company.
Is stepping all over people "earning" wealth? Doesn't "earning" something—truly earning it—imply some sort of moral rectitude?
Am I recommending we (to use your strawman depiction) "divvy up everything among everyone else"? No. Rather, I'm saying that we need to get serious about rejecting the conservative notion that there is something morally corrupt about taxing those who scrambled to the top of the heap. They probably got there by not being nice to everyone along the way, so they can't lay some moral claim to their wealth.
Taxing them could be compensation for the damage they did along the way.
You also ignored the free will aspect. You are talking as though people have actual free will choices whereas I reject that idea. People make choices not freely but according to the people they have become and based on antecedent conditions, events, experiences, and life lessons. Nothing else makes any sense.
Hike up the minimum wage, and stop giving tax credits.
Well, whom is the money to do that going to come from? The poor, the middle-class, or the rich?
The more one has benefited by manipulating the rules of an economy, the more one owes "rent" for being able to manipulate it.
It would only seem fair.
What? Fairness isn't on your radar?