Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And once you open the floodgates, you can’t tell the water where to go.

SELECTIONS: Thomas Sowell, ‘Enough Money’

The idea that politicians should decide when a citizen has made enough money is morally bankrupt and economically illiterate. One of the many shallow statements that sound good — if you don’t stop and think about them — is that “at some point, you have made enough money.” . . .

There is nothing wrong with my deciding how much money is enough for me or your deciding how much money is enough for you, but when politicians think that they should be deciding how much money is enough for other people, that is starting down a very slippery slope.

Politicians with the power to determine each citizen’s income are no longer public servants. They are public masters.

Are we really so eaten up with envy, or so mesmerized by rhetoric, that we are willing to sacrifice our own freedom by giving politicians the power to decide how much money anybody can make or keep? Of course, that will start only with “the rich,” but surely history tells us that it will not end there.

The French Revolution began its arbitrary executions among the hereditary aristocracy but ended up arbitrarily executing all sorts of other people, including eventually even leaders of the Revolution itself, such as Robespierre.

Very similar patterns appeared in the Bolshevik Revolution, in the rise of the Nazis, and in numerous other times and places, where expanded and arbitrary powers were put into the hands of politicians — and were used against the population as a whole.

Once you buy the argument that some segment of the citizenry should lose their rights, just because they are envied or resented, you are putting your own rights in jeopardy — quite aside from undermining any moral basis for respecting anybody’s rights. You are opening the floodgates to arbitrary power. And once you open the floodgates, you can’t tell the water where to go.

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