Or alternatively, “Altruism is Great…but is unsustainable…”
Although twisted in its ultimate objectives, Gordon Gekko’s memorable speech in the 1980’s thriller Wall Street resonated with this key Free Market Maxim.
Recent proposed tax hikes on the rich recommended by the Obama administration and the Pelosi-controlled Congress has been greeted with cheers – the Robin Hood mentality of society is starting to run amok.
Listen up America: we do not solve our economic problems by taxing the very people who are the engine to our economy. People who make over $250,000 are not evil wealth-hoarders – they are hard-working, thoughtful, innovative and self-motivated individuals just like each and every one of us - they have just have decided to take on a little initiative and a ton of risk. By taking on this risk, for mainly their own reward, they create employment for millions, tax revenues in the billions and grease the engine of this economy. All of a sudden, it has now become popular to vilify these individuals and these corporations.
So what if, every once in a while, these individuals decide to spend their hard-earned wealth and take a vacation. We should be delirious if they choose to fly first class, stay in fancy hotels, eat expensive food and drive nice cars. This may possibly irk us (who secretly wish we could do the same) but certainly the companies which receive these revenues and the employees earning their daily wage from these same companies are probably very thankful for this group's willingness to take on this risk and willingness to happily spend their profits! But now "our protectors", the Barney Franks and Harry Reids of the world, want to tell us that this is bad, that earning too much and spending money is a bad thing and thus, the wealthy are our enemy!
No one bothers to note that, when these "enemies of the state" are finished with their infrequent vacations, these risk-takers are often back in their offices (or steel mills or restaurants), working hard to identify and satisfy society's NEEDS and WANTS, continuing to give employment to many millions, and gladly paying a far greater percentage of tax dollars than most Americans. For this, our government rewards them by asking them to pay even more taxes.
One of the proposed tax hikes is a ceiling on deductions for charitable contributions. The proponents say that people will give regardless of the tax break they receive…an interesting theory - possible but highly unlikely. Without arguing with the proponents, just tell me this - wouldn't people give MORE if they get a tax break?
Oh no – the altruists say – people should give more without needing a tax break…well newsflash, these people have worked hard for their wealth and maybe a little encouragement doesn’t hurt. Don’t we want to encourage this greedy behavior which encourages larger charitable giving? Because the alternative – the belief that altruism is perpetually self-sustaining is simply naïve and has led to plenty of failed projects in the past, including Cuba, Eastern Europe and, of course, Russia.
Milton Friedman, hailed by the Economist magazine as “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it,” said it best in this interview from almost 30 years ago…