Give it away, give it away now
Originally posted by Sestias
Carnegie gave much of his fortune away before he died.
And he did it on purpose. 'To die rich,' he said, 'is to die disgraced'.
This suggests a highly satisfactory answer to your question,
If the wealth of families like these were to be redistributed, who would do the redistributing, and what criteria would be used in deciding who
an answer that many contemporary plutocrats, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, seem to have voluntarily adopted: get them to do it themselves.
We might encourage them to do so with the carrot of memorial honours and the stick of confiscatory death duties; or better still, we might simply
adopt Carnegie's statement as an aspect of our social morality. The second way is harder because you cannot accomplish it by fiat; but we can achieve
it, perhaps, by educating our children right.
We have the Soviet Union and China as examples of how wealth has been redistributed in the past; many would agree that we don't want to follow
There are many other salutary examples.
My family, a generation ago, used to be landowners in a very small way. Not small enough for the Socialist government that came to power in my country
when I was entering my teens, however, so the family property (already subdivided between my grandmother and her several children) was expropriated
and redistributed in tiny allotments among putatively landless folk brought to the district from other parts of the country. This was, of course, an
effective piece of electoral gerrymandering in favour of the redistributors - though they were still wiped out at the next election - but what really
made me think was what eventually happened to those two-acre plots.
You see, my family was still left with a fraction of its original holding, which, unprofitable though it was, still had to be tended and administered.
This task devolved on my father (the youngest son) because nobody else wanted to do it. Over the next few years, I often travelled with him when he
visited the estate at weekends, helping him to do what needed to be done there. On the way there and back, we would drive past the numerous
smallholdings that had been carved out of what had once been our land.
For the first year or so the little plots seemed to be thriving under their new owners - but meanwhile, news from the community was all about quarrels
between the locals and the newcomers, some ending in violence and even murder; there were property disputes, political disputes that ended up with
people attacking one another with knives, all sorts of trouble. Simultaneously, agricultural productivity in the district went through the floor. Thus
poverty was added to the other immediate effects of the redistribution, which were social upheaval and increased crime.
And soon, my father and I began to observe a new phenomenon: the tiny allotments had begun to grow fewer in number and larger in size. The more
successful of the new landowners were buying up (or seizing) their neighbours' land. This went on for a while, till at last there were only a handful
of estates (as they could now fairly be called) and the majority of the formerly-landless beneficiaries of the government's generosity were landless
again. Only now they were landless and poor in a part of the country to which they had no longstanding ties, and whose longer-standing inhabitants
were implacably hostile to them. Thus they found themselves even worse off than before the government stepped in to 'help' them.
That's Socialist wealth-redistribution for you. The experience of it in my early teens has made me a lifelong supporter of capitalism and the free
One more thing:
Although I think some socialist programs, like universal health care, would be desirable...
It's a terminological quibble, but I prefer to see such programmes as social-democratic, not Socialist. I can't think of them as Socialist, because
then I wouldn't be able to support them with a good conscience (as I do). I loathe Socialism.
[edit on 30-11-2007 by Astyanax]