"I'm in the top two percent," said Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, this week on CNBC. "Right now, I'm paying 45 percent of my total income in income taxes ... You tell me, what's fair about that when medieval serfs pay 25 percent, I'm paying half? I don't care what the majority voted to do, they don't have a right to steal my money just because they vote for it."
But according to most Americans, they do.
And that's the problem.
As America racks up more debt than God has ever seen on this earth, Barack Obama prepares to right all wrongs by taxing the top 2 percent of income earners in America. What right does he have to their money? Well, says Obama, it's only fair and just -- they make the most money, so they should foot a disproportionate burden of the tax load.
Obama, like all other liberals, thinks in vague terms like "fairness." He doesn't worry about a fair process -- whether or not it's right to allow a majority to discriminate against a minority simply because the minority is rich. He worries instead about a fair outcome. According to President Obama, a fair outcome -- greater income redistribution -- justifies the means. If a majority votes to seize the money of a minority, that's fair, because greater income equality is fair. No Democrat has yet explained convincingly why it wouldn't be most fair for the government to simply seize all wealth in the country and then split it up equally. After all, fair is fair.
But this notion of fairness was anathema to the founding fathers. They rightly recognized that the only real sort of fairness is fair process -- a process that deliberately takes into account minority rights. They knew that a majority giving its stamp of approval to wealth confiscation of a minority was not fair. As James Madison said, "Our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country ... [It] ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." Madison wasn't saying this because he was a brutal rich fellow trying to protect his pocketbook. He said this because he didn't want a government in which the majority could oppress the minority. And he also recognized that, in economic terms, wealth confiscation is directly opposed to economic innovation.
Madison wasn't alone in this regard. The founders despised what they termed "faction." They didn't mean political parties -- they meant, as Madison wrote in Federalist #10, "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." The purpose of the Constitutional order was to check faction against faction, to prevent a combination of the majority against the minority.
And yet over the past century, America has moved away from this limited view of government. The majority, which has since time immemorial wanted to rob the richer minority, moved to rewrite the system to allow such wealth confiscation. They did it under the guise of fairness. But once the process is overthrown, the tyranny of the majority is no longer speculative: it is a living, breathing reality. If the majority decides on the purest form of wealth redistribution -- from each according to his ability, to each according to his need -- then that thievery and impediment to human progress is branded with the stamp of legitimacy.
America is no longer a republic. It is a thugocracy. So long as fairness of result trumps fairness of process -- so long as a majority can trample the rights of a minority, then point at a simple majority vote as moral legitimation -- America has lost its way.
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