Those Inglourious Wealthy Basterds

Polls are showing Bernie Sanders pulling ahead of Hillary Clinton. It’s something a lot of people didn’t think would happen. But I saw it coming months ago, before Clinton’s scandals. Clinton could be the best angel from here until the primary election but it won’t help. You see, she’s old news. She was in 2008 and she is now. The only reason anyone was considering her way back when for 2016 was because she was the only one with her hat in the ring; that is, until Sanders. And now Joe Biden is looking to hop in too. Which means, Clinton isn’t going to easily take the throne like she may have thought she would. Did anyone else notice that? All that build up to her announcement. It was like she lost unfairly in 2008 and felt the Oval Office is now due to her in 2016. That was my impression.

You see, she lost in 2008 due to a charismatic character, a promiser for Change. The media pandered to him. They pitched softball questions to him. It was so obvious, Saturday Night Live had a field day with it (and may I add, made that show funny for the first time in years). No one wanted to see him trip. Set aside the fact that he’s bi-racial. Plenty of people of color have run for president under the Democrat banner. But none were treated with kid-gloves as Barack Obama. Isn’t he so nice? I mean, seriously. Put aside politics. I think I’d get along with him on a personal level. And that’s how you get into office. Clinton doesn’t have that. But you know who does?

Bernie Sanders has held a government position for over thirty-years. He’s been at the federal level since 1991. He’s currently filling the role of United States Senator from Vermont. And I predict, he’ll deny Clinton the throne for the very same reason Obama took it. Character.

Sanders has been rather consistent with his views throughout his tenure in office. And I can respect that. That is rarely seen in politics. He brings social democracy to the table as a presidential candidate. He’s offering an economic and social model like that of Denmark and Sweden. He’s not shy at all to say we can learn from them. As if they’re lands of unicorns and leprechauns. This is Sanders’ version of Change. But is anyone fact checking to see if the Nordic Model does offer a better alternative?

This essay isn’t going to go after that model, show it’s faults, show that it won’t work here. It won’t even show it doesn’t really work there. You can google it out for numerous papers on the subject. I personally recommend seeking out Cato Institute papers and studies for a good analysis on why the Nordic Model isn’t a greener pasture. No, in this essay, I’ll tackle the one piece that trickles throughout the Democratic Party, even if the socialism aspect isn’t tagged on.

Wealth Redistribution.

It’s the theory that some people have more than they need and should be forced to let go of some and turned over to others who have less. This, the theory goes, would even the playing field. Everyone could then afford good housing, healthy foods, clean water, a secure living environment, proper healthcare and everything else that goes into a civilized society. Great, right? Why should some people live better lives than others? That’s practically feudalism. We have no kings and queens here.

So how do we do it? The Sanders Way, is to forcibly take it. And to use the power of government to do so. The Sanders model, the Nordic Model, is taking money from someone else, giving it to someone else deemed more responsible to spend it on a greater good, and setting it in motion.

Plato dreamed of a society ruled by the smartest people: The Philosopher Kings. These people would be the brightest, the best able to see what was good. Not subjectively, but objectively. They could see the true good, not an object thought to be good. For instance, a steak dinner is good but a Philosopher King would say that it’s not the steak that is good, it’s what the steak represents. It’s that abstract, ungraspable concept behind the steak. And then they go about philosophizing the properties of the steak that make it so.

But we don’t have Philosopher Kings. And you don’t want Philosopher Kings. Imagine someone else determining what is the best thing for you. Uh, wait. I almost gave away the conclusion. Let me divert a bit.

We have elected individuals with minimal qualifications to get those jobs. Speaking at the federal level, the President only need be at least thirty-five-years old, living in the United States for the past fourteen-years and be natively born. A United States Senator only needs to have achieved the age of thirty, a United States citizens for at least nine-years and living in the State represented at the time of the election. And a United States Representative in Congress need only have achieved the age of twenty-five, citizen of the United States for the past seven-years and a resident of the represented state at the time of the election. There are more qualification requirements on a McDonald’s application. Do you think the people who minimally fit the government job requirements have the ability to see the greatest good? Maybe. But look at how they spend the money already given to them. Now ask if more would be a good idea.

The overriding error, the glaring assumption in government mandated Wealth Redistribution is the expectation that State power is benevolent, made up of thinkers who are just and seekers of equal. The error, is in conceptualizing the State as a machine with a program uninhibited or encumbered by human emotion, politics, subjective reasoning and overall humanness. When you hear someone say government should force rich people to give up more money, what they’re really saying is some people should be allowed to forcibly take money from richer people and decide what other people should get it.

Sam Harris, an intellectual I greatly admire, imagined another option. A collective of billionaires, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (already engaging in such a collective), coming together to pool the money they have voluntarily chosen they didn’t need. And then, figure out where best to share it. This is a much better option than Wealth Redistribution run by the State.

First, it’s voluntary. All contributors are not being forced into a program that may or may not show results. This means if the money isn’t spent wisely (“wisely” defined by each contributor), they may withdraw. And if it succeeds, they may choose to contribute more. And success might bring other backers. The government option forces contribution regardless of results.

Secondly, there’s less of a political football involved. Or may I say, none at all. No one is trying to please a campaign contributor or lobbyist. And even if they do choose to spend their “surplus” on a favorite, personal program that doesn’t seem for the common good, so what? It’s their money.

The fact is, there are no purely altruistic people. Only people wanting others to be purely altruistic. Here’s the proof: When you’re doing your taxes, do you look for as many deductibles as possible? Do you shelter as much money as you can in tax havens? Everyone does. Everyone cuts corners, fiddles with the numbers, to keep what they’ve earned. I know of no one, and neither do you, ignoring all the options to keep more of their earnings. I know of no one, and neither do you, checking off every box to donate, donate, donate. Give, give, give. No one. But when they do give, they voluntarily do so but not with tax forms. They give to a program or person who can make something happen for them or their community. Now if the altruistic billionaire club could gather more members, that would be great.

I don’t yet have an answer as to how to increase membership in the Altruistic Billionaire’s Club. But I know that those with wealth already do give (See: Gates; See: Buffet). They just don’t give to the Jesus Point: That point at which they’re down to robes and sandals. This, I think, is what the Wealth Redistribution crowd wants to see before they’ll be appeased. They never recognize the contributions already given, always expecting more. But what I do know is that public shaming doesn’t seem to work. Exhibit A: Occupy Wall Street. It. Did. Nothing. It’s gone. It remains a bad memory of an angry, disorganized mob. It only encourages division. It makes those being attacked dig in, put up walls, not want to give anything to those yelling at them.

So I’m open to suggestions. If you think they should give more, how? How should you get more wealthy people on board? I’m open to ways of encouraging those with the wealth and means to join Bill and Warren and maybe give a little more. Just don’t tell me your idea is force. Because, well, we’ve been over that.


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