The Great Disconnect 1 - Whose Work?

The differences of the two Americas are fundamental and profound.

It's a normal part of the human condition for people to have disagreements, sometimes profound ones.  Generally speaking, this is all to the good - if we all thought and acted alike, what would be the point of human society?

Nevertheless, it's preferable to have some common ground, at least on basic underlying facts of reality in order for communication to happen at all.  Even in the midst of wars, for example, in modern history both sides have generally agreed on some ground rules which were designed to minimize collateral damage to noncombatants and to try to reduce some of the damages inherent to the horrors of war.  In the exceptions where that wasn't the case - generally guerrilla or asymmetrical terroristic types of war, where hurting civilians was the primary, and often the only, achievable objective of one side, the fighting became even more horrific and barbaric than the norm.

Alas, any basic societal consensus such as we have mostly enjoyed for centuries seems to be dying.  Increasingly, we've noted that there are many questions on which Scragged and those who agree with our ruling elites hold, not merely opposite views, but indeed, the two parties can't even agree on reality or the words with which to express it.

In 2011, we wrote "Science Fiction and the Coming Civil War" which quoted Nancy Pelosi on the loss of shared values among American citizens:

But when it comes to a place where there doesn't seem to be shared values then that can be problematic for the country, as I think you can see right now.  [emphasis added]

She said that 10 years ago!  And she's much righter today than she was then.

Who Is Entitled To The Fruits of a Worker's Labor?

At that time, one of the more consequentially vivid disagreements concerned the right of workers to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Around the same time as Ms. Pelosi's statement, Paul Krugman wrote a New York Times editorial:

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state - a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net - morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It's only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. ... Many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There's no middle ground between these views[emphasis added]

Saying that Mr. Biden's Democrats are spending future taxpayers' money like drunken sailors is an insult to the Navy: Sailors spend their own money, and stop drinking when they run out.  Our modern leftists simply print more, stealing from everyone by reducing the value of the money they earn.

Most liberals have no appreciation for the positive effects of greed on human development, and state that billionaires shouldn't be permitted to exist.  They refuse to consider the income tax paid by employees of Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and other successful corporations run by billionaires whose personal wealth, no matter how large, is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  As rich as they are compared to the rest of us, the individual billionaires we've all heard of represent a tiny fraction of the total economic activity of the companies they founded.

Where do the employees who aren't billionaires get the money to pay their income taxes?  From their employers' sales.  Customers enrich the owners of these businesses by buying their products.  They buy because they want the goods or services more than they want the money!  What's wrong with that?  Shouldn't we want businesses to offer goods and services which people voluntarily choose to buy?

Greed for earned profit is a force for good.  Bill Gates' greed brought us MS-DOS which put computers on desktops.  Andy Grove, who headed Intel, brought the price of PC chips down so low that Mr. Steve Jobs, another greedy capitalist billionaire, put computers in every pocket.  Elon Musk's greed for not just wealth but historical glory may end up putting the common man into space, previously a staple of dime novels but not of reality.

We have all benefited immensely from the greed of these men.  We don't begrudge any of them one dime of their earned fortunes - PCs and smart phones have benefited us enough that we have willingly spent thousands of dollars of our hard-owned funds buying the hardware and software they offer.

How did Mr. Jobs pay to develop the iPad?  From profits from the iPhone which he paid for with profits from the iPod.  If government had taken his profit, he couldn't have created them, and wouldn't have bothered anyway.

In contrast, what did Hillary do for Goldman Sachs for $675,000 they paid her for a speech? It cost us money - she used our tax dollars to reward "Government Sachs."  Instead of letting us to freely choose to buy services from Goldman, she benefited them with tax money taken from us by the government by the threat of force.

There is all the difference in the world between productive greed and exploitative greed.  The left sets them as equal and feels entitled to the money they siphon away from the taxpayers; the right recognizes them to be opposites and regard grifters like the Clintons and Bidens as common thieves.

Slavery, the Ideal of Democrats

One of the few common-ground agreements apparently remaining in Western society is the principle that enslaving others is a Bad Thing.  Few would seriously propose that other human beings should be shackled and put to forced labor for the benefit of others, except in recompense for their own personal crimes, and often not even then.

Yet, in a modern welfare society, what are taxes other than forcing person A to work for the benefit of person B?  The original purpose of taxes was to provide a way to pay for common goods that benefited all, such as police, courts, fire prevention, and the national defense.  Not only do these legitimate expenditures no longer represent the lion's share of national budgets, they aren't agreed on by all even in principle.  Consider the calls to "defund the police" by those - criminals and lawbreakers in particular - who believe with some justification that the cops are out to get them.

Even based on the concept of enforced taxes really benefiting the payer by improving overall quality of life, we aren't yet cleared of the evil underpinnings of slavery.  Any master of a Southern plantation would proudly tell you that his slaves were better off under his enlightened rule than they were running around naked in the African jungle - and comparing the standard of living of modern American blacks to that of the average African, can you say he was entirely wrong?  Yet we'd all agree that argument is irrelevant to the irreducible evil that is slavery.

So, on the right we find a horror of depriving individuals of the just fruits of their labor; on the left, we find moral demands to cavalierly do just that, for the purpose of benefiting others or righting any wrongs identified by those enlightened individuals who... hmm, are exactly those making the argument in favor of their own absolute power over those who labor.  Funny about that!

We all recognize that slavery was evil, for the obvious reason that the slaves had no power over their own lives or fate.  This could not be a starker contrast with the principles of Americanism, in which ordinary people were meant to be the ultimate authority and to decide their own rulers, as such luminaries as Frederick Douglass and Dr. Martin Luther King stridently reminded us.

But, if we cannot agree on what liberty and an absence of slavery are in terms of economics and taxation, it should come as no surprise that we also don't agree on what it means to be living in a democracy, or a constitutional republic.  We'll explore this disconnect next.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

'Consider the calls to "defund the police" by those ... who believe WITH SOME JUSTIFICATION that the cops are out to get them."

umm-m-m ... if there is any "justification" for such calls, there certainly isn't very much of it. i will grant that The State is fascist (leftist) and *NOT* to be trusted, especially in current circumstances, but i would venture that most of the crime statistics collected by The State are still - mostly - reliable. these don't seem to indicate to me that any significant number of (local) policemen are deliberately targeting any people unjustly.

perhaps i misunderstood the statement, and it really means that the BAD GUYS are being targeted. it would not be the first time that i completely misunderstood a statement, and if this is what Will meant, i apologize for whining. otherwise, i will just say that statistically, it is virtually impossible to have a large group of people with *NONE* of them being bad apples; given the history of governments in general (almost 100% oppressive of their "citizens"), our low numbers of bad apples looks pretty good to me.

November 18, 2021 1:24 PM

By way of clarification - yes, WO was indeed referring to the "criminals and lawbreakers in particular" whom the police should be targeting.

On rethinking this, though, a major problem is that the police *aren't* actually targeting criminals and lawbreakers as much anymore. But we'll get to that in a future article in this series.

November 18, 2021 5:06 PM
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