Aristotle, Obama, and the End of Charity

Barack Obama continues to promise tax cuts for everyone making under $250,000 a year and tax increases for those who make above that figure annually. He is unapologetic in his proposed use of this policy to “spread the wealth around.” And while we are correct to see this as nothing less than a bald attempt to redistribute wealth, we miss the boat if that’s all we see. Lower and Middle class families who plan to benefit from this policy at the expense of others need to understand that the generosity of the upper class is going to disappear once already confiscatory taxes turn into highway robbery.

That this is so is not just common sense, although common sense should suffice. The effects of high tax rates upon a people’s charitable spirit has been seen again and again by free market economists and historians who look honestly enough at history to see that low tax rates spur generosity while excruciating rates close otherwise open purses.

A long time ago, the mid-300s B.C. to be exact, Aristotle began writing portions of what became one of his most famous works – Politics. Here, Aristotle actually warned against egalitarian, “spread the wealth” politics embodied in men like Obama and Joe Biden. He contended that seeking equality in economic outcome for everyone across the board could only result in “the destruction of the state,” as “the state is not made up only of so many men, but [of so many] different kinds of men.”

The truthfulness of this is evident to any honest inquirer. For our nation, our “state,” is comprised not simply of men with differing abilities and various degrees of skill and training, but also of some men who work for a living and others who are not ashamed to spend all day in bed, waiting for a government check to arrive in the mail so they can live at the expense of those who do work for a living.

Because of this variation of skill and motivation among the population, Aristotle also argued that one of the greatest difficulties faced by a nation operating under democratic electoral principles is finding a way “to prevent the poor from plundering the rich.” He understood that a state which adopts policies that allow the lower or middle class to live on the backs of the upper class is a state which has agreed to its own execution. Currently, in the U.S., leftist policies “spare” 35% of our population the burden of paying federal income taxes. Is it not fair to say that the people who comprise that large percentage are plundering those who do pay taxes? And Obama wants to increase the plunder.

Moreover, according to Aristotle, this situation tends to a greater number of people going on the dole because “everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill.” In other words, once a man gets past the initial shame of living off the labor of another man he loses what little ambition that remains, and becomes accustomed to relying on the motivation, ambition, and labor of others.

Aristotle recognized that a nation that overtaxes its upper class places even the property of that class at risk. And this couldn’t be clearer than when we consider that the wealth the upper class produces is their property; a property our government takes away through Obama-like tax policies. Thus, the 50% tax bracket which the Obama campaign proposes for those making over $250,000 has as its ultimate end the taking of the property of one class in order to disperse it among the open hands of other classes.

In such a setting Aristotle warned that “no one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action.” i.e., charity will cease when property ownership comes under attack. An Obama-like redistribution of property places a palpable tension between the classes that wasn’t there prior to such strong handed government intrusion.

While psychologist John Rosemond’s observation that “entitlements…always breed contempt for those who pay the bills” was proven true in the aftermath of the millions of dollars sent to ungrateful Katrina victims, Aristotle’s warning about a decline in generosity will prove true as well if Obama wins the election and succeeds in instituting his proposed tax policies.

Ultimately, Obama’s plan to “spread the wealth around” is just going to put an end to charity.