Class warfare is as old as society itself. Now it has broken out full-bore, not only in the White House but also in the traditional media.
Obama’s class warfare proposal
The man now holding office as President, Barack H. Obama, is a class warrior par excellence. Anyone who cared to know, knew that class warfare informed his deepest convictions. In 2001 he once told an interviewer at radio station WBEZ that he found fault with the Constitution of the United States. He called that document “a charter of negative liberties.” He wanted a charter of positive measures—including redistributing wealth.
This week he finally disproved any notion that he wanted compromise. Yesterday he railed against “the rich” (a group he never defines) and repeatedly ordered them to agree to pay more taxes. “Pay your fair share!” he thundered. Warren Buffet, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, stood by his side. Buffet has hypocritically complained that he pays a lower rate of tax on his income than does his secretary. (That’s not correct. He pays exactly the tax rate he ought to pay—on investment income.) Yet Buffet has never once drawn a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, nor encouraged any of his friends to do so.
Obama’s media allies
Everyone knows that the traditional media have allied themselves with Barack H. Obama. Recently an NBC-TV news anchor provided fresh evidence. He said that Republican objections to Obama’s tax-increase plans were “bunk.” Then he dared the Republicans to “defend greed.”
What is greed?
Greed is the most common class warfare buzz word. No one has ever defined it in a way that everyone can agree on. Greed could stand for shortsighted or reckless behavior—acquiring just one thing too many, or taking the one risk one should not take—that creates a problem. One who eats more than his system can digest is the classic example.
But to a class warrior, greed is any acquisition of wealth other than by the speaker or his allies. The essence of class warfare, then, is envy. A class warrior envies the wealth that another person has. Or if that class warrior is a politician, he fears any wealth that someone possesses. A wealthy man can be independent. So the class warrior cries out that the wealthy man is dangerous to society. Not so. The wealthy man per se is dangerous only to the authority of the politician doing class warfare.
The true quarrel
The thing that class warriors fear most is one who feels no shame or guilt over having money—so long as he came by that money honestly. (This is why one frequent tool of class warfare is to say that he stole his money—or even that if he has money, he must have stolen it.) And so the class warrior dares the wealthy man to “hold [his] own interests above the interests of the public” (or those of “those less fortunate”).
Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, anticipated this. She witheringly replied,
[S]uch a question can never arise except in a society of cannibals.
She went on to explain: human beings who deal honestly with one another in free trade, need never have a conflict of interest. But when one person wants something that the other one has, and is not willing to pay for it, then the two persons’ interests are in conflict.
Of course, the public can make another man’s wealth of no moment at any time—by refusing to trade with him. But Obama proposes to seize wealth by treating one man differently from another. That is flatly unconstitutional. Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 plainly says:
No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.
Yet that is what class warfare inevitably uses: trying a target class in the legislature, not in court. To do this, the class warrior tries his target in the “court” of “public opinion.”
The proper response
The only way to answer class warfare is to reject its moral premise out-of-hand. The only fair and moral way for a government to behave is to grant equal opportunity—not equal result. (Equal result is usually a “miserable” result, to quote the James Earl Carter administration.) Again, to quote Rand:
I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow man than you can ever hope to accomplish—but I won’t say it. [I] do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist. [N]or do I recognize the good of others as a justification for the seizure of my property or the destruction of my life….I could say to you that you do not serve the public good…[W]hen you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all. [A] public of right-less creatures is doomed to destruction….[Y]ou will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation—as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won’t. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise….If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned! I will have no part of it!
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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