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Shrug, Baby, Shrug!


My political views were not so long ago described by a fellow community activist as, “to the left of libertarian.” I took it as a compliment. Contradictory to the common stereotype that libertarians are conservatives who like to get high, lefties and libertarians share much common ground. Or they used to. Leftyism used to be about personal freedom, non-violence, and making sure government “keeps its laws off my body”.

Now that the leftoids have the monopoly on state violence, they’re unabashed in proclaiming how they will use it to create the society of their dreams. There’s a long list of scores to be settled and targets for punishment. The left has abandoned their highest moral principle: peace. Now in power, they have a vision of justice. And justice requires enforcement.

To enact a slate of “positive rights”—things we each must do to benefit someone else—requires preëmptive violence. Wealth and income must be seized before it can be redistributed. Personal freedom must be curtailed to achieve the collective behaviors desired by the democratic majority. 50% plus 1 is all it takes to deprive us of property, association, speech, and our moral agency. There is no charity at the point of a gun.

The leftoid vision is expansive and expensive. And that’s where I think I lost my fellow activist. I explained that I was opposed to expansive government control because he who pays the piper calls the tune. It seems foolishly utopian to believe that people will surrender their wealth for a Great Society or some similar communal outcome. Wealth does not come easily. (Paris Hilton is not the norm—that’s why she’s news)

Those who have the ability to create riches for redistribution will demand something in exchange for their bounty. My view in this instance is cynical. The more powerful a government is, the more corruptible it is. While the leftoids are taxing the top few percent of incomes, those earners are working the system. The scales of social justice will always be imbalanced in favor of those with wealth and the power wealth buys. An expensive vision must embrace corruption. The rhetoric of justice and equality are tools the powerful use to fool 50%+1.

The only way to avoid the injustice of massive and corrupt government is to limit state power. Washington and City Hall must keep their laws off our bodies. All laws, not just ones amenable today’s majority. But it seems the former hippies are drunk on their majority power. And in intoxication, they forget: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

That saying suggests another problem with a violence-based redistributionist utopia. What if nobody pays the piper? The top few percent of earners can choose to stop earning. They’re already rich, they’ll be fine no matter what happens to the rest of us. Atlas shrugs and the world falls down.

The porkulus bill is a stellar example of the wealthy and powerful using majority power to enrich themselves. It represents several hundred billion dollars of state control. Crony capitalism has never had a better friend in Washington. When crony capitalism grows large and corrupt enough, it becomes fascism. The rich still own the means of production, and government officials control production to satisfy their mutual greed.

Unless Atlas shrugs. And he is considering it:

[Regular commenter] Methinks writes about the top 2% paying for the increase of almost a trillion dollars flowing mostly to the other 98%:

I'm in the target group to do the paying. I won't do it.

I own my business and, unlike an employee, I have the option to work as much or as little as I like. At some tax rate, the marginal dollar won't be worth earning. I'll fire some employees, scale down the business or retire altogether and stick my money in tax advantaged muni bonds and do all the traveling and relaxing I can't do now. … I respond to incentives and I'm not incentivized by enslavement and neither is anyone I know. The specialness of this country is the lack of totalitarian regime and individual liberty. Once that's gone, this country is no longer all that special. You can call me evil or "not doing my part" because I'm not willing to work myself into the grave for your family instead of mine, but the reality is that unless you plan to start a Gulag, you can't make me.

The question is, why should I be expected to work and risk more than you to provide you with the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed?

There's a difference between the natural altruism that occurs between family members and confiscation by the state. I feel great when I donate to charity. I feel really crappy when I write the check to the IRS. Maybe I should figure out how to receive one instead. Seems a lot less time consuming.

The virtuous choice for the top 2% of earners is to starve the beast. The alternatives are either joining the orgy of violence and corruption, or submitting to growing slavery. I will miss the rich and the opportunities they create for me to join them. At the risk of a socio-economic decline that may last longer than my life, I urge every Atlas to shrug.