"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?

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If you want to go the freewill route, then everyone is equal, as the morality of the person was a product of his genes and life experiences.

So that cancels out, everyone's choices are now a wash as far as their morality goes.

If there was some sort of cosmic karma, so everything was fair and good people got more, and bad people were punished, wonderfull, your idea holds water.

In reality, there's no Flying Spaghetti Monster making sure that happens.

So, society can decide how they want to help those less fortunate....and if you want to be in that society, here's how much you owe.

Should the tax rate for the rich be higher?  It depends on what it is for lower incomes.

Simple things like getting rid of the flat 10% on stock earnings, etc, would level the playing field big time.

Everyone pays whatever they normally pay on income,  and boom, no breaks for the rich on earning only they can afford to invest in.

Should the people just storm the McMansions and take what they can carry?

No, I don't agree with that.

Should the society agree upon what would be a helpful support network and appropriate funding to help the less fortunate, and help share that cost proportionate to THEIR income, sure, that's fair.

Otherwise, its a slippery slope when you try to say WHO gets to say if someone deserves to keep what they have or not.


You seem to want to change the topic away from whether the rich have really earned their wealth in any moral sense which would give them an unassailable right to control it and benefit from it.

Only once that's been decided can we discuss what's fair in terms of taxation.

Free will remains the most intractable of all the classical philosophical problems. However, it's only a problem if you can't accept that there's no such thing. Once one accepts that it's an impossible illusion, there is no problem of free will. However, then, there are a myriad of other problems having to do with holding people responsible, what people have moral claims to, and other things.

So, you want to create an algorythm or other way of looking at all of someone's stuff, and saying, you earned this because you worked hard and accumulated this pile, but, you got this because your boss liked you, and you got that because the guy you helped find the lost dog died and left you that pile?

And this pile you only have because your dad saved a lot of money for your college, and you went to Harvard, and got a much better job than you would have than if you'd not had a father who saved as much? - So the extra money you were paid was because of your father's work not yours.

So, you can keep that first pile, but "we" are taking the other piles, and splitting them up 25,000,000 ways?

Am I understanding your concept and where it would lead?

I am not particularly interesting in where it would lead. I'm more interested in concepts like "earning" and "deserving." I'm asking questions a moral and/or political philosopher would ask.

Conservatives claim liberals want to redistribute money to people who didn't earn it. What I'm saying is along the lines of "Wait a minute. Did the  uber-wealthy (like the 1%ers) actually 'earn' the money they use to control our lives? Can they make a case that they 'deserve' to keep and control it?"

Once that question is settled, we can discuss what to do about it. 

OK, so, skip to evaluating the piles...which would need to happen TO see what was there to be earned, or not.

As you assume that this is about the 1% who have millions...as the only criteria for being considered as targets for "redistribution".

Bite off one example:

John is born into a hardworking lower class family, his father skrimps and saves, and sends John to Harvard, and, as a Harvard graduate, John gets great job offers, and makes millions as a manager of a mutual fund.

Larry is born into a wealthy family who can afford to send larry to Harvard, who also gets great job offers as a result, and makes millions as a manager of a mutual fund.

Harry is born into a hardworking lower class family, works hard, and sends himself to Rutgers on a scholarship...where he gets an OK job as a manager of a plant that makes widgets...and is paid $75k/year, and has a comfortable life.  He then wins the lottery for millions.

Barry is born into wealthy family, but is into painting, and decides he loves it so much, that he will not go to college, and simply paint full time, and he can afford to do that because he inherited a large trust fund.  Barry's painting's prove very popular, and he makes millions in art sales.

All of the above are now to be judged as to if the money and possessions they HAVE, were earned.

What's your breakdown?

Unseen is completely correct here

Many economists including Nicolas Taleb have done massive research on the topic (comparing what people call shrewed business decisions or shrewed business personalities) with all the measurable variables possible...and they found that little could be reduced to the actual decisions made. Obviously some of it comes down to their decisions, but so much more of it comes down to circumstances...a lot of which is mostly luck. In the publishing industry this is exaggerated beyond reason. If a book blows the charts the publishers and editors are called geniuses for their vision of the future of literature while those who pass up a book that someone else took and went on to be an awesome success are called moronic idiots who couldn't see a runaway success when they saw it (and are even disgraced in the business and have a hard time finding work). You obviously have to pick a sellable book...but you cannot possibly know how well it will do on a scale of modest sales to record breaking sales unless its the autobiography of an ex-president. The editor picked the best one...give her a 1,000,000 bonus...when in reality they did nothing different than the other editors who had promising books that flopped. Look at the rest of their career and you usually find mediocrity...as is the case for just about everyone. The same principle can be applied to the world of cinema, magazines, art, museum, jewelry, fashion and to a lesser extent to computer games, cars etc.

In other words, isn't a lot of the accumulation of wealth like winning a lottery?

And in fact...more and more...it's becoming a lot more like a winner take all.

p.s. Unseen...Nicols Taleb basically talks about everything you said in your post only with the numbers behind it as well as a fantastic narrative. It's called "The Black Swan" and I highly recommend it to everyone.

in the rear view mirror to be "shrewd business" actually just something that turned out well?

Yes and no, there was always the risk that it wouldn't turn out well.

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.

I think there's a term for this but I have no idea what it is.

the words "s/he earned it" seem to mean quite a bit less, and the advantages of wealth seem less deserved.

Perhaps we should all quit out jobs and live like cave men? The wealth I earn from my job buys me a secure place to live and enough food and utilities for my family to live. In what sense have I not earned this? In what way do I not deserve these things in exchange for devoting much of my adult life to work?

It's a little early in the discussion (and the wrong topic) to be dragging out the strawmen.

You seem to be implying that wealth isn't earned. If wealth isn't earned then we don't deserve it and should give it to charity. If we did that, we would all be living like cave men.

Where's the straw man? I'm just following your premise to it's logical conclusion. Also, feel free to address the rest of my comments/questions which still remain even if we ignore the cave man part.

I'm asking what we mean when we say someone earned something. This is important, because if someone earned something, that implies a moral claim to it.

For example, the 1%ers. Do they have a moral claim to their wealth and power?

Where's the strawman? "Perhaps we should all quit out (sic) jobs and live like cave men?" Since I am sticking to defining the concepts, laying out what you think I believe is a strawman.

I think people living on wages or salaries might have a greater claim to calling their income "earnings" than someone whose income is passive.

Isn't this like arguing what the definition of "is" is? Lol

We all want to make a decent living, that is a given....How much is too much?   It would seem that a person could live a very fruitful  life on one million dollars a year, or even half that.....Yet the top 1% make more than 100 million dollars a year......When a country as rich as the United States has so many homeless and people living below the poverty level, it seems so insensitive that these extremely wealthy are not willing to give a little more in taxes  to help them.....Yes, it is a form of Socialism, but isn't helping our fellow citizens with so little, a generous thing to do from those who have more than enough?      Giving back is a humane and compassionate thing to do for your fellow man.....Who knows, maybe one day a rich person will fall on hard times and may need a little help from his fellow citizens.....If everyone was paid a livable wage indexed to inflation, that would be a good start......After all, the wealthy ,got so ,from the hard work of their employees and paying a livable wage is surely the way to say, thank you, to them...


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