Standard socialist fallacies #2: “Ability is power”
By the logic of socialists (and left wingers more generally), this was an injustice in need of remedy by the state. They don’t say this, of course, but there is no avoiding the conclusion.
At a recent debate on socialism vs capitalism, Andrew Harrop, head of the Fabian Society, repeated the familiar idea that the rich have more power than the poor. And, because everyone’s power should be equal, he concluded, wealth should be equalised by taxation.
But the power that comes from wealth is the same as the power that comes from being witty: namely, finding it easier to get what you want. A rich man finds it easier to buy a car than a poor man does; a witty man finds it easier to seduce a woman than a dull man does. If the former is an unfair inequality of power, why isn’t the latter?
The answer cannot be that what can be bought with money, such as cars, matters more than what can’t, such as love. Even if cars do matter more than love, which I doubt they do, they can be bought with wit as well as with money. A witty man can get a Ferrari from his rich wife.
Nor can the answer be the different causes of inequalities in wit and of inequalities in wealth. Both often have the cause that socialists take to be the most obvious sign of injustice: namely, inheritance. Just as a man may have inherited his wealth, so he may have inherited his wit – through the genes his parents passed to him and through his family’s culture.
A socialist might argue that differences in wealth and wit are indeed both unfair. But only differences in wealth can be remedied within the bounds of what is ethically reasonable. Taxing the rich is OK. But chopping out bits of the brains of the witty would be a step too far, even in the name of social justice.
Alas, that also can’t explain their different approaches to wealth and to wit. For the advantages of the witty could also be eliminated by tax. If all the beautiful women Tim seduced had been liable to a $5,000 fine, I am sure the rest of us would have done much better.
Or, to address another inequality, suppose beautiful people were fined for reproducing with other beautiful people. This would equalise beauty without doing anything left-wingers do not consider acceptable for the sake of equalising wealth.
Perhaps socialists will one day advocate such policies to equalise the benefits that people enjoy from their variable “personal assets”; socialists have always proved willing to translate their theoretical absurdities into practical atrocities.
But I hope the moral equivalence of differences in wealth and differences in wit will lead them to the opposite conclusion. I hope they will conclude that wealth inequality is not an injustice in need of remedy by the state.
And, if they won’t conclude this, I hope they will comment on this blog to explain where my reasoning has gone wrong.