Posted by Brad @ 9:40 pm on October 28th 2008

“The Purpose of the State is to Redistribute Wealth”

Bam. In relation to the spirited discussion we had here, even ka1igu1a at Freedom Democrats agrees with me:

Memo to Jack and James over at The Crossed Pond, the Raison d’Ítre of the State is to redistribute wealth. That’s what it does. Redistribution is hardly an exogenous impersonal duty that needs to be imposed by the courts since it is, in fact, enshrined in the 16th Amendment of the Constitution. And it should be noted that the supreme court, in the Dred Scott decision, allowed the most egregious example of redistribution in US history when it allowed some to coerce labor from others and allowed full confiscation of the fruits of such labor.

As The Volokh Conspiracy notes, Drudge’s headline is a non-story. If you accept the legitimacy of the State, then you necessarily accept the legitimacy of income/wealth distribution. The dynamics of such redistribution in terms of the formation of the political classes and the productive classes is at the heart of the libertarian class theory critique of The State.

I will add, I certainly understand the impulse to be horrified at that—welcome to libertarianism. And once again for the record, I agree with that. But welcome to the late 19th early 20th century. And as far as redistributionist schemes goes, Obama’s tax plan is also pretty goddamn moderate (decreasing taxes for 90%, and only letting Bush era tax cuts expire on the rest, returning them to Clinton levels). As Sullivan adds:

A simple question. I’m a flat taxer, because I don’t believe the government has any business punishing people for getting richer. But I don’t think that people who support the kind of punitive taxation that Obama does or Cameron does in Britain or Reagan did in 1986 is a “socialist.” Is it now the McCain campaign’s assertion that anyone who isn’t for a flat tax is socialist? I should add that if Obama is a socialist, Richard Nixon must have been a commie.

That does not make redistributionism a good idea (do I have to underline that? Because I swear to God I will). But it does add necessary perspective. Those of us being browbeaten to accept that Obama is a closet Marxist the likes of which this country has never seen just strike a queer note to me. He seems like a pretty mainstream—even moderate in (significant) spots—Democrat to me, just better at articulating it as a vision.


  1. Why the hell am I named in that memo? I thought I was pretty clearly on the “not all that significant” aka “the correct” side of that argument.

    Comment by Jack — 10/28/2008 @ 10:16 pm

  2. If you accept the legitimacy of the State, then you necessarily accept the legitimacy of income/wealth distribution.

    I hate this type of argument. It is not an all or nothing proposition.

    A little wealth distribution is better than a lot, if you believe in non at all.

    As with most administrations, it will depends on whether the “kooks” get power or are held in check by Obama. Bush let the crazy folks get control of the wheels of power. We see the results.

    I am hoping Obama will moderate, but I give it a 50/50 chance.

    Comment by daveg — 10/28/2008 @ 10:24 pm

  3. What a load of crap. And no, I will not elaborate. I really shouldn’t have to. What a world.

    Comment by James — 10/28/2008 @ 10:36 pm

  4. I am in the highly unusual position of agreeing with daveg. Mark your calenders!

    Comment by Jack — 10/28/2008 @ 10:41 pm

  5. daveg #2: Just tossing my two bits in here, but we aren’t looking at ‘a little’ and ‘a lot’ we’re looking at ‘a lot’ and ‘a lot’. One might be more, even significantly more, but speaking from my personal opinion, WHERE that gets redistributed matters a lot as well.

    Comment by Mortexai — 10/29/2008 @ 1:32 am

  6. just to clarify things a bit; i’m making an market anarchist critique of the State and not engaging in, let’s see how did james characterize it, a “zombie conga line…tongue-kissing” apologetic of Obama’s tax policy. It just seems trivial to me on the heels of the State nationalizing money and credit–which, if i’m not mistaken was supported by everyone here–to be engaging in histrionics over Obama’s redistribution policy based on a 2001 interview. The again, this is the silly season of politics in it’s home streach.

    Comment by Kaligula — 10/29/2008 @ 1:52 am

  7. The state nationalization of money and credit was vehemently opposed by (maybe not Adam?) everyone here. Rojas in particular went apocalyptic and was ready to start killing strangers.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/29/2008 @ 1:55 am

  8. For the record, I think all of us but Adam opposed it.

    I agree with the rest of what Kaligula says, though. This is silly stuff to go all nuclear about.

    Comment by Brad — 10/29/2008 @ 1:57 am

  9. The effect of the state is, to a greater of larger degree, to redistribute wealth (it could redistribute it towards the rich, towards the poor or theoretically even back to the people from which the money was taken in proportion to what was taken). The purpose of the state, however, is a different matter; that’s a matter of opinion. Indeed, my point, about purpose and intent, is that redistributionism as a premise lends itself to Taxation as Good.

    As for ‘nuclear’? What are you talking about? We just disagree (indeed, that’s inevitable, as you’re wrong and I again bask in the sunny glow of rightness).

    Comment by Adam — 10/29/2008 @ 7:30 am

  10. I still didn’t get an answer to why I am named in that memo.

    Comment by Jack — 10/29/2008 @ 10:31 pm

  11. Because you are a Godless communist?

    Comment by Adam — 10/30/2008 @ 6:35 am

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