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Joining the Envy Gang Is Dangerous Business

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

To the several good reasons that George Will gives for why a valid case for progressive taxation is nonexistent (Dec. 6) should be added another offered by Thomas Sowell: “Those who want to ‘spread the wealth’ almost invariably seek to concentrate the power….  Which is more dangerous, inequalities of wealth or concentrations of power?”

Entrepreneurial neighbor Smith who possesses a new Lamborghini, a gargantuan swimming pool, and a bulging Swiss bank account might, if I’m a shallow person, incite within me feelings of envy.  But that’s the worst that he can ‘do’ to me.  Smith can never endanger me as can government-official neighbor Jones who possesses, not many material riches, but the power to harass neighbor Smith and to seize parts of Smith’s wealth.  And were I to applaud, or even to be indifferent to, Jones’s exercise of power over Smith, I would thereby forfeit my moral standing to object when Jones – as he too likely will – starts using his power to harass me and to seize parts of my wealth.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030