Jabba the Catt

In a sinful and fallen world, any blessing can be abused. The temptation to lord it over others is a constant one, and the human heart will use whatever materials are ready to hand — intelligence, looks, education, money, age, strength, and so on.

This means that inequity in the distribution of wealth does present temptations — most certainly, and welcome to earth. But Scripture teaches us to deal with sin where the sin is, which is under our own sternum. The cause of our faults is not to be located elsewhere. Lust is not caused by beautiful women, covetousness is not caused by other people owning things, and dishonoring parents is not caused by them asking you to do something.

If a man has five million dollars and I have five, then he will no doubt be tempted to believe he is better than I am. This is often and easily noted. What is almost never noted is my temptation to believe I am better than he is. If we both succumb to the temptation, we both commit the same sin . . . but at least he has a better argument. I am constantly reminded of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a Christian — “one who believes the New Testament is a divinely inspired book, admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

If someone points out that great inequity of wealth creates a power relationship that is morally problematic, then what do we create when we create a mechanism that can fix this inequity? Right. We have created a larger power differential. Granted the problem is a big hole, why are we digging it deeper?
We justify this to ourselves by pretending that we are not digging it deeper, and we do this by leaving the government and its powers out of our consideration. But what happens when we do the sensible thing and include the government and its powers among the fat cats?

Those who lament this wealth inequity of ours, like Piketty does, want to “fix it” by jacking the marginal tax rate on the super-wealthy up to 80 percent, and up to 60 percent for those making between 200K and 500K. But how can you do this without creating an uber-wealthy entity — the government — which has now just successfully taken 80 percent of the earning of all the super-wealthy, and which has an army, navy, powers of coercion, and so on, and which comes into my house on a fairly regular basis in order to boss me around? Why are you guys arguing that we should take most of the money away from all the fat cats and give it to Jabba the Catt?

And the regular fat cats got that way by selling me goods and services that I really wanted, and which I can use to make my labor more productive. The coercive fat cats, the government, which by this point in a post like this should be spelled gummint, has created a power differential between themselves and me which is far greater, by orders of magnitude, than the power differential between Bill Gates and me. And on top of that, their track record concerning their actual uses of their power is demonstrably demented.

This kind of “reform” can only seem plausible because the people who tolerate this kind of rule are represented well. We are governed by thieves, and we are governed by thieves because our own hearts are full of larceny, covetousness, envy, and self-deception. How much money the super-wealthy own should be absolutely none of my business, and if I make it my business, then I am the predator, I am the thief, I am the envious one, I am the problem.

That’s a novel sentiment right there, one that more Americans ought to experiment with: I am the problem.

But in the meantime, you can always take the kids to the zoo we call Washington. They have taken all this wealth that they have confiscated and have gathered it together in one gigantic, lush bamboo grove, covering millions of acres — the native habitat of the pander bear.

And as you gaze at the very expensive exhibits, just mutter to yourself . . . I am the problem.

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Brad Littlejohn
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Thanks for this further clarification of your position. However, the problem is that this reasoning presupposes that the “gummint” is some fundamentally alien entity, another one of the fat cats. But that’s neither how it is understood in our Constitution, in which our government is something “of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Lincoln’s words, not the Constitution’s, but captures the gist), or in classical Christian political thought, in which the government is either understood as the expression of divine sovereignty on earth (in which school of thought, its powers are not strictly limited in the way… Read more »

Brad Littlejohn
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Since the Scruton article I just linked above is quite long, it might be more helpful to post one particularly relevant excerpt here: “Such a government is not imposed from outside: It grows from within the community as an expression of the affections and interests that unite it. It does not necessarily put every matter to the vote; but it respects the individual participant and acknowledges that, in the last analysis, the authority of the leader derives from the people’s consent to be led by him. Thus it was that the pioneering communities of this country very quickly made laws… Read more »

Steven W
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Another important point, as I understand him, is that Piketty isn’t only talking about money, but all forms of wealth (property, inheritance, influence of power, etc). Various taxation plans do not necessarily level or abolish these forms of wealth among the top percent. Their intended goal is to counter-balance them in other important ways, giving those who might lack the financial muscle other resources to interact in society. You actually see something very similar to Piketty’s thought in Dabney: “Hence, the legislation of the State should always be shaped to discourage large accumulations, and to favor equal and moderate fortunes.… Read more »

Steven W
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Also, I should say that Dabney was not for redistributing wealth from one individual to another individual, but rather wanted to use the revenue from various taxes to create common-use resources and production opportunities.

Katecho
Member

Fortunately, Doug has never said anything against the legitimate role of the State within its God-given sphere. Doug also speaks against rebellion, and in favor of reform. He’s no anarchist. The issues that Doug critiques are those of an unaccountable and unsustainable ruling class. The issues are the mountains of debt we are laying on the heads of a future generation. Can we talk about generational wealth inequality and government-sanctioned generational theft? Brad hasn’t clarified whether he believes that increased government central planning is the solution to wealth inequality, but his answer to that question is very important as we… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Brad Littlejohn wrote: “However, the problem is that this reasoning presupposes that the “gummint” is some fundamentally alien entity, another one of the fat cats.” This is factually incorrect. Doug stated very clearly that this “gummint” is us. Doug invites us to say, “I am the problem”. Doug wrote, “We are governed by thieves, and we are governed by thieves because our own hearts are full of larceny, covetousness, envy, and self-deception.” We the people have voted for the biggest Santa Claus candidates for awhile now. Collectively considered, we enjoy being dependent on the State. We enjoy being debt slaves.… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

Okay then, Doug, tell us specifically how you, or even red-state conservatives in general, are the problem. Unfortunately, whenever people make statements like that they always come across such that by “we”, what is really meant is those people over there voting Democrat. So here’s the chance to undercut that impression.

jeers1215
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jeers1215

This poor man (Scruton) has a severe case of Stockholm syndrome. His understanding of human nature is every bit as laughable as the Marxists. Yes, the State has a legitimate means of being legitimized as a real moral union. And this is as natural as divine revelation. I find it interesting that, like Scruton, you are also trying to use State apologists (racist, murderous Lincoln) and State propaganda (the Constitution, an unlawful Federalist power-grab) to justify the State. So the State whitewashes its crimes with an Official narrative (perhaps this is the national mythology that Scruton believes binds him to… Read more »

Steve
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Steve

Congressmen are usually rated by how much money they bring into their districts. Those Congressmen brag about it and those are the ones who get re-elected. Those that don’t do as well lose. So we want our Congressmen to be greedy just like us. What people fail to realize is that there is no free lunch. While maybe we can make the folks in the next state pay fir our stuff in our district for a while, it all eventually has to come home to roost. And we can’t just walk away unscathed by bankruptcy, because. SURPRISE, we are the… Read more »

Jacob Moya
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The difference between the words “inequality” and “inequity” are germane to the discussion.

This article explains it well.

Jacob Moya
Guest

Also, I should say that Dabney was not for redistributing wealth from one individual to another individual, but rather wanted to use the revenue from various taxes to create common-use resources and production opportunities.

And didn’t he want to do that at the local level, or at least at state level (the more local level), as opposed to at the federal level?

David R
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David R

@Brad

Scruton is talking about local governments. Forming clubs, schools, and rescue squads is something done at the local level where there is more accountability and local control. The animus towards government that you see espoused on this blog and elsewhere is primarily aimed at the federal government.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Does Scruton know that the British Coast guard is a private charity? Does this example show him that the political government can perhaps be radically shrunk–that we could depend on it rather less than he thoughtlessly (?) assumes? Has he read Tyler Cowan’s “The Theory of Market Failure”? Can he call politicans thieves and perjurers when they deserve it, and desire that our President personally buy insurance for anyone who lost the policies he said they could keep (and Bush Sr pay the taxes of anyone whose taxes he raised?) Can he ever say with John the Baptist to a… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Brad, I hate to tell you this but the neither the US Constitution nor the Idaho Constitution are of consequence. The government is no longer of the people but is of those who consider themselves better than those of us governed serfs. In fact, the current regime doesn’t even follow the basics of our constitutional republic. One only needs to look at the current hot topics behind the news to realize that our rulers are alien to our way of life and our stated beliefs. They are more than willing to steal from those who produce to give to those… Read more »

John Trocke
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John Trocke

Pastor Wilson: To get concrete, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the U.S. Federal Park System. Here we have an example of the federal government essentially stepping in and taking a limited resource from the hands of those who would otherwise purchase and privatize land (generating income via deforestation, or charging an entry fee), instead “distributing” it to the populace at large to enjoy. Is this an abuse of power in your eyes? Should Bill gates be able to buy up the Yosemite Valley and fence it off for his own personal use? In theory I agree with… Read more »

Matthew Raehl
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Matthew Raehl

I award you 15 style points for putting two t’s in Catt.

RFB
Guest
RFB

John, I am not attempting to answer for Pastor Wilson, but I have a comment of my own. It seems to me that your proposed choice is not really one of not being able to “purchase and privatize land”, but who can actually do it. Your choice is between one entity or another. If it is “gummint”, can any of “the populace at large” enjoy it as they see fit? If the new owners establish the household rules for who, what, where, when and why said property can be used, you have not established a difference with a distinction, you… Read more »

Katecho
Member

John Trocke wrote: “Here we have an example of the federal government essentially stepping in and taking a limited resource from the hands of those who would otherwise purchase and privatize land (generating income via deforestation, or charging an entry fee), instead “distributing” it to the populace at large to enjoy.” For the record, the National Park Service does charge an entry fee for Yosemite National Park. The fee is $20 per private vehicle, or $10 per person arriving on foot, horseback, bicycle, motorcycle or non-commerical bus. For those interested in a classic treatment on this topic, I recommend the… Read more »

John Trocke
Guest
John Trocke

Katecho, I grant you that there now exists a $20 per car fee to get into Yosemite National Park. However, if it were Disney’s Yosemite I guarantee you that prices would be comparable to Disney Land in California, which run around $100 per person per day. And that would just be the entry fee. Plus the giant mouse ears on Half Dome would be a little tacky.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

My entry fee comes out of my paycheck.

soylentg
Member

John, your argument that admission to Yosemite would skyrocket if privately owned remind me of the argument that we need illegal aliens to do the jobs that citizens won’t do. In other words we need to pay higher taxes to support a welfare state in order to subsidize low paid workers to keep the cost of McDonald’s burgers low. If there were no cheap illegal labor, businesses would have to raise their wages to whatever it takes to attract citizens to do those jobs. Of course those citizens may be more motivated to work if they were not subsidized in… Read more »

Jane Dunn
Guest
Jane Dunn

Pastor Wilson is incorrect that raising the marginal tax rate to 80% on the super-wealthy would mean that the government “has now just successfully taken 80 percent of the earning of all the super-wealthy.” That’s simply not what a “marginal” tax rate means. Also, federal governmnent receipts from individual income taxes, as a percentage of GDP, have remained remarkably flat since the end of WWII. Federal receipts from corporate income taxes, though not changing all that much, have steadily declined. Total federal receipts from all sources has remained stable. So, where is the money coming from to make up for… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jane Dunn wrote: “So, the super-wealthy aren’t being robbed and the federal government isn’t sucking all the wealth out of the economy. Chill, folks.” Jane is correct to provide some perspective on levels of taxation over time, but even that falls short of the reality. The federal government that we have today is a complete runaway train from what any of the founding fathers imagined. It takes a lot of money to make that train accelerate. Jane observes that overall taxation (on us today, as citizens and corporations) is relatively stable, and hasn’t scaled at the same rate as the… Read more »

Jane Dunn
Guest
Jane Dunn

Katecho said: “So just focusing on our current stable rate of taxation ultimately lacks perspective.” Well, that’s neither what I said nor what I focused on. I said tax rates have been stable going back to WWII That’s not “in recent times.” That’s going back several generations now. On this Memorial Day weekend we need to remember that our nation has been at war for about a dozen years now. At the time we started down that path we had built up a budget surplus, but instead of guarding that surplus wisely, we (through our elected representatives) decided to both… Read more »