Email L. Henry Platt, Jr.
WHAT IS FAIR (OR EQUITABLE)?
The answer varies depending on the rules of the game or the expectations of others involved in the benefits of the outcome. When a runner is called "safe" at home plate in a baseball game, he will say that the referee is fair; but the catcher might say the call isn't fair. Years ago I was arrested for speeding. The police officer driving a nine year old Ford said I was traveling 60 mph. I truthfully testified that I was traveling only 40 mph. I further testified that I had checked my speedometer a few days later on a 60 mph highway. The jury found in my favor. I felt that this was fair, but I can only guess at the feelings or opinions of the officer.
In economics there are many different degrees of prevailing rules and expectations. In the summer of 1967 an article in Life magazine told the story of a remote, primitive community called "Ai". In this community theft and adultery were never prosecuted because the sin of accusation was far, far worse. In the 1970's in the Soviet Union a capitalist was prosecuted for importing a load of oranges from Turkey and selling them at a handsome profit in the open market in Moscow. In the United States some merchants are criticized for increasing retail prices when the wholesale price of new stock rises. Which examples above are fair and which are not can be debated extensively, but not here.
Pure capitalism is based on private ownership of real-estate and of personal and mercantile property. Pure communism is based on common ownership of all property and all belongings. Neither of these systems has ever succeeded in groups of more than three human beings for any extended time, (but the people of the United States of America have usually been generous and concerned people who mixed socialism in the form of private charity into basic capitalism and have made the United States into the greatest nation in the history of the world.). Bees are not human.
Early Christians led by St. Paul and recorded by St. Luke shared in everything, except when St. Paul traveled and earned his keep by manufacturing tents. Native Americans shared some things - especially large animals killed for food. Some tribes shared most real-estate as in New England, but not in Virginia.
English and other immigrants built their lives and fortunes with capitalism, private responsibility and private property. These immigrants (individuals or nuclear families) bartered, purchased, or harvested everything they could. If there was something they needed that was not available, God, prayer, and patience were the most common choices. These choices were often productive.
In the twenty-first century many people still seek ways to provide for themselves, but there are also those who try to convince themselves and others that they are unable to provide for their personal needs. When Julius Caesar was Emperor, the poor were limited in their search to find food and shelter. Moses declared in the Torah some basic laws to provide for widows, orphans, the sick, and certain elderly, but affluent Americans have always been generous. In March 1933 a generous and affluent President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, moved the Federal Government into the position of helping impoverished people. He purchased all the gold coins of all the people, and then he increased the dollar value of gold by 75% by melting the gold coins to generate money for this generosity.
At the same time in Germany Adolph Hitler stole all the gold - even the gold from people's teeth to pay for his plans. He eventually also took people and their property. He lied to his people and to the world, and then he used his military forces to conquer the world. He was stopped by World War II at great cost. In the end someone had to pay the bills. Fortunately, the people of the United States lent our government the money to win the war by buying War Bonds, and after the war Americans cashed in these bonds to support great economic growth in the private sector.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is almost universally accepted that in the end someone will have to pay the bills. The problem is that too many people expect someone else to pay the bill.
While Harry Truman's electorate had War Bonds to turn into cash to buy cars and homes built in the United States, today's debt is held by the Bank of China.
Now the President of the United States wants the top 2% of the wealthy people to pay the $1.5 trillion annual budgetary shortfall that his regime has been squandering during the last four years. He tells us that these people have their money because it was stolen from the poor by the parents and grand-parents of today's wealthy 2%. This concept is almost completely off the mark.
Everybody remembers the children of Sam Walton who are quite well off, but I don't think that Dunn &Bradstreet would put them in the top 2%. To say that Sam stole from his employees is a downright lie. Many of his early employees live very comfortably today because they participated and invested in their company. Tiger Woods was once in the top 2%, but those who have money don't always keep it. I am not a sports buff, but there are plenty of men and women in sports whose earnings put them into the top 2%. Their parents are not wealthy, wealthy, but they do have a good work ethic. This is their most valuable legacy.
Two percent of the people in the United States figures out to be around six and a half million tax payers. If Mr. Obama expects to pay for his wanton spending of the people's money by taking it from the top 2% of the people, this would amount to an average tax surcharge of over $150 billion. Considering that the highest earnings of a single individual worldwide in 2012 was only $30 billion, this doesn't seem even to be a reasonable pipe dream.
The answer is simple: slash spending. Unfortunately, the regime is unable to even consider reducing spending except for police, fire fighters, unemployment compensation, education, national defense, or Social Security. Is hardly fair to even think about reducing Social Security while the regime is bloating the hoard of federal bureaucrats whose jobs are to explode the collection of regulations and reports that people in the private sector must follow and produce simply to justify the exorbitant salaries paid to the bureaucrats? Is it fair to pay somebody $50 million annually to run Freddie Mac? Is it fair to give $12 billion of American tax payers' money to develop offshore oil production in Brazil?
I think that the people who produce goods and services for others to purchase with their own earnings should be entitled to choose how to spend their own money. I believe that those who produce more should be paid more than those who simply complain. Almost everyone can do more than he does, and the wise see it. Once upon a time there was a man named King. If he didn't have all of his rent money ready on rent day, he would clean the yard and porch completely, and the landlord would say, "Thank you." for the money he did receive.
Some of the old timers used to comment about an occasional fellow worker with this comment, "If I could buy him for what he is worth and sell him for what he thinks he is worth, I could make a fortune." A wise worker, overhearing this would ask, "How can I improve my work?"
Is it fair? depends on the agreement preceding the task or the reputed value of a product being purchased.
© L. Henry Platt, Jr.