If you’re not wealthy, I have good news for you. Warren Buffet wants to give you money. Well, sort of. He want to force other people to give money to the state, but isn’t that the same thing?
In a smugly self-righteous column in Sunday’s New York Times, Buffet lectures other wealthy people about what they should do with their money. (Actually, it’s about what should be done to those people, but we’ll set that aside for now.) He says that people such as himself should be paying more taxes, because the percentage he pays isn’t as much as the percentages that other people pay. What insane person ever decided that percentages should be used to calculate the price of services?
Buffet says he paid $6,938,744 in federal taxes last year, but he says that’s too little because it amounts to only 17.4 percent of his income, which he says is a lower percentage than was paid by anyone else in his office. Would he care to compare the actual dollar amounts paid?
Let’s ask a simple question. Why should a successful and productive person be penalized for being successful and productive? Even if we assume for a moment that taxes are legitimate — which I don’t — why would we charge a successful person more money for the services he receives (and shares with others) from the state each year?
When you go to the grocery store, you pay about $1.98 for a loaf of bread, if you get the cheap stuff. When you get to the cash register, nobody asks your income. Nobody calculates the price of your bread based on what you earn — $2,450 for Warren Buffet and 17 cents for the woman who waits tables at the restaurant next door. No, you are receiving a thing that has a market value — and you pay market value.
This is why government is so messed up. There’s no market, so there’s no market value for what we get from it. We certainly receive some value. Other than through the cost of taxes, I don’t have to pay to drive on most roads or use state-run libraries or rely on the military to try to protect me if the Martians finally get here to invade. But because there’s no market in governance, I can’t compare what I’m paying to what someone else would charge. I’m at the mercy of a monopoly system to decide what I get and set the price.
Does it occur to you how ironic it is for governments to ban what they see as monopolies in the private sector?
Most people who try to address Buffet’s argument in favor of higher taxes argue that higher taxes would hurt the economy and hurt job creation. If you want to argue that, you can successfully show why it’s true. The facts are there for someone without an ideological bent. But I honestly don’t care about those arguments. I’m only interested in the simple fact that what the state does in taking money from successful people — penalizing them for being productive — is immoral.
Stealing money from people is bad enough. Stealing money disproportionately from successful people is immoral and irrational. The only reason the state gets away with it is that there are more non-wealthy, so it’s easy to milk “the super rich.” It only works until the productive people realize they’re being cheated — and they quit being so productive.
If Buffet wants to pay more money to the government, there’s a very simple solution. Here’s the address to send donations to the U.S. government. Give ’em every penny of your money if it makes you happy. You’re welcome to do with your money what you please, but don’t self-righteously demand that other people are forced to make your choice, too.
Update: Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute offers a solid rebuttal to Buffet’s reasoning, purely on factual grounds, at Cato’s blog.