What do Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, business tycoon Warren Buffett, Dallas Mavericks billionaire owner Mark Cuban, and movie star Brad Pitt have in common? Each man is a high profile capitalist asserting that American capitalism propagates greed while government redistribution of wealth produces justice.
It’s easy for Cuban, Schmidt, Buffett and Pitt to criticize capitalism after they’ve used it to achieve financial independence, fame and influence. Now that they’ve made it to the top they can criticize and dismantle capitalism without fearing significant negative impacts on their own lives.
To illustrate their hypocrisy, I’ll analyze Pitt’s viewpoints. Pitt thinks it’s greedy to pursue wealth through capitalism—but not to grab millions by making movies and posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated.
This month, Pitt told PARADE: “You know, we bitch about raising taxes. I think the argument is that it’s my money, I earned it, why do I have to pay for other people? I get very frustrated with that argument. I don’t mind paying taxes. I live in a country that gave me the opportunity to make money, and most people on this planet do not have that.”
Pitt blasts people who “bitch about raising taxes” but he isn’t jumping to pay more taxes before other wealthy people do. Perhaps Pitt feels like he needs more recognition before he ponies up. After all, he’s adopted three children from around the world, supports Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian efforts and creates Hollywood movies (by far the greatest service one can do for mankind).
Pitt laps his family in luxury and continuously pursues wealth for himself. He told PARADE that if he’s globetrotting with his kids and they are away from home “for a long time, we’ll fly their friends out so they can be together.” If he practiced what he preached, he’d be living a bare-bones lifestyle and giving all of his own surplus cash to the poor, not condemning people who are tired of paying soaring taxes into a broken system.
While Pitt may have good intentions, I get the feeling that he doesn’t understand the purpose money or the value of capitalism. Capitalism isn’t dishonorable. Capitalism is noble and practical. For, a man must seek material riches “in so far as they are necessary for him to live in keeping with his condition of life,” says Aristotelian philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.
There is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing material wealth. As Aquinas points out, pursuing wealth could be part of your “condition” or vocation. For example, if you’re the founder and CEO of a company that creates jobs for hundreds of people, the honorable thing to do is to pursue greater (“excess”) profits so that you can hire more people and ensure the job security of your employees who currently depend on you.
Money is a necessary tool whereby humans achieve productivity. So, when the government unjustly appropriates money from wealthy entrepreneurs who need their wealth in order to invest, take risks, grow their companies and create jobs, the government is greedy—not the wealthy individuals. A greedy person— or institution—wastes and abuses money by pursuing excessive wealth for no productive reason.
Last week, Bill O’Reilly said: “It's about efficiency and fairness. Why should I, or you, work hard everyday so some guy in a suit can have a $16 muffin? … I've paid my fair share for 35 years, Mr. President. And you and other politicians have squandered my labor. Squandered it. So until the feds and the states demand efficiency and cut the crap, I will oppose targeted tax increases.”
The government is not acting in the best interest of society by taxing rich people more. Instead, the government is sending the rich Americans overseas, along with the investments, jobs, security and happiness that they create.
In the President’s speech on reducing the deficit last week, he said that taxing the wealthiest Americans more to pay for excessive government spending is “fair” and “just the right the thing to do.”
The Chicago Tribune reports that the richest Americans “pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.” Additionally, “…the tax code is riddled with more than $1 trillion in deductions, exemptions and credits, and they benefit people at every income level…”
Asking wealthy job creators to give the government more isn’t fair. It’s not tax reform. It’s greed. Government greed.
Pitt, Cuban, Schmidt and Buffett each used capitalism to attain financial independence. If they wish to pay more taxes, they are free to write a blank check to the IRS. But they should stop criticizing capitalism and free market policies because every American deserves a shot at attaining financial freedom and professional success—not just them.