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.