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Calvin Freiburger

Personal Income As a “National Resource”: A Look at Michael Moore’s Brave New Collectivist World

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Posted on March 4 2011 1:30 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

Sure, we’re all a little spooked about the huge debt our government is accumulating, but everybody can relax now; our favorite anti-American, far-left propagandist, Michael Moore, has the solution. Admittedly, it’ll take some minor changes in the way we think about wealth, which some of you might like, but you’ll get used to it—after all, you’re not greedy, are you?

Moore recently had this to say about the rich:

“They’re sitting on the money, they’re using it for their own — they’re putting it someplace else with no interest in helping you with your life, with that money. We’ve allowed them to take that. That’s not theirs, that’s a national resource, that’s ours. We all have this — we all benefit from this or we all suffer as a result of not having it,” Michael Moore told Laura Flanders of GRITtv.

“I think we need to go back to taxing these people at the proper rates. They need to — we need to see these jobs as something we some, that we collectively own as Americans and you can’t just steal our jobs and take them someplace else,” Moore concluded.

Much has been made about how Moore himself won’t return his own generous share of this “national resource,” but even if he were more magnanimous, his argument wouldn’t be any less outrageous. For one thing, it ignores the fact that the rich already pay a disproportionately high share of the tax burden individually, and US corporate taxes are among the highest in the world, too. For another, we’ve run this experiment several times in American history, and the verdict is in: if you want to raise government revenue and increase prosperity for all Americans, then the direction you want taxes to go is down, not up. As a businessman, you’d think Moore would understand that when businessmen pursue their own interests, it actually does tend to have the effect of “helping you with your life, with that money,” by creating new jobs for the purpose of creating goods and service that people want.

But if the wisdom of Moore’s ideas is suspect, the principles behind them are far worse. By what standard of justice or morality do I have any claim to my neighbor’s money? Unless he stole it from me, or I gave it to him under special mutually agreed upon circumstances, the answer is none. My neighbor either earned it through his own work, or was gifted it by its prior rightful owner. I did nothing to earn it. That’s the case regardless of whether or not he’s a rotten person, doesn’t need that money, is wasting it, or I could put it to more noble use.

It’s just as absurd to speak of jobs as “collectively own[ed].” A job is simply whatever someone needs or wants done, and negotiates with someone else to accomplish. This is a voluntary agreement on both ends – the only moral duty binding either the employer or the employee is that of abiding by whatever terms they agreed to.

For the government to treat money—or any form of property—as a “national resource” rather than something that justly belongs to the individual possessing it at its core anathema to the American understanding of liberty and natural rights. Don’t take my word for it; take James Madison’s:

In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights…Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own…

That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest…A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor; where the keenness and competitions of want are deemed an insufficient spur to labor, and taxes are again applied, by an unfeeling policy, as another spur; in violation of that sacred property, which Heaven, in decreeing man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, kindly reserved to him, in the small repose that could be spared from the supply of his necessities.

Re-reading Madison’s words, it becomes clear that Michael Moore has precisely the sort of mindset the Father of the Constitution feared, and sought to discourage—not because he wanted to insulate the elite from the masses, but because he understood the danger envy poses to liberty, and that when we indulge excuses for violating the rights of some, nobody’s rights are safe.

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