The Spontaneous Redistribution of Wealth, Part I


What moves the world may very well be the driving force of individuals acting in their rational self-interest. But what moves the Left is the redistribution of such strong individuals' created wealth.

Redistribution of wealth is widely known to be a means to achieve the great value of equality among men ' equality in political as well as economic, cultural, and social terms. Socialists claim the profits of entrepreneurs and wealth of industrialists should be divided among all people. Every man has a need which should be fulfilled ' by those capable of fulfilling it. They call to the state for help.

The state uses its only means available to accomplish this task: coercion and violence. As George Washington put it, it is, like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master. But the state is not nearly as dangerous as the ignorant and destructive ideals of the Left. And Leftist ideals plus the powers of the State equals trouble; for everybody everywhere and always.

The Left claims the market needs to be regulated, by the State of course, because it generates so many problems of inequality. Some people seem to get very rich while others are poor; it just isn't fair. Libertarians usually respond by saying, 'How can it not be fair, it is a result of free people acting voluntarily.' Very well, it may be so.

But the discussion seems to end here ' the Left will never accept any 'system' generating anything but total equality, and libertarians fail to understand the weight of importance the Left places on it. So there is no further debate. 'I don't understand what you're talking about, so you must be wrong,' both seem to conclude. But is it so?

Actually, libertarians are better at playing the game of promising equality than the Left. And the libertarian equalizing system is voluntary and spontaneous, thus moral. It is called the market. Put in the terms used by the Left, the market is mainly about distributing the costs among those who can bear them.

Consider a dentist's office. People need the services of a dentist to avoid the troubles and pains of constant toothache. But providing such services for oneself is very expensive. One would need a multiple-year education and then buy the equipment and instruments needed (a dentist's chair, drills, X-ray machinery, among other things). This means giving up many productive years, and investing thousands of dollars in equipment hardly ever used.

Wouldn't it be better if a bunch of people got together to provide for the group's dental care? Of course it would; it would be cheaper and easier. Maybe one of the group members could get a dentist's education and then act as a dentist in this little community, and all of them share the costs of everything needed in the dentist's office.

This may very well be a socialist wet dream, where a society's offered services is based on the equal need for such services, and every individual in the community voluntarily co-invest and make everything community-owned.

But wouldn't it be better for each and every one of us if we did not have to pay the costs for the establishment of every service we may or may not need in the future? I think we all agree that it would be both cheaper and easier if we were not supposed to invest in every piece of machinery one might need ' and manage and administer it collectively.

It would be much better for us if someone interested in dental care would provide this service for us. This would of course mean they would have to go through dental school, invest in the equipment of a dentist's office, and then offer us these services. This would mean we do not have to pay anything until we need the services, and that such services are available, ready and waiting for us when we face such needs. What a perfect solution!

But this comes with great risk to anyone who wishes to provide such services; what if nobody needs my services? There must of course be an incentive for providing the free availability of services paid for only when used. If there is nothing in it for anyone supplying the services, why would they do it? They can only lose, while others gain. This is clearly not an equal situation.

It would be more equal if everybody is to gain from such a structure. And such equality would be if anyone offering the availability of such services for free can charge whatever cost for the use of the services[1] and add a small fee to cover any personal costs and pay for the time and effort. Such a fee is a small, even negligible, price to pay for the great benefits provided for us when in need. This fee, generally referred to as 'profit,' is the community's small token of appreciation to the individuals producing great benefits for their fellow men.

[1] As we can see, the entrepreneur is actually distributing the initial costs of producing the products or services among his/her clients. The more clients s/he can attract (by offering cost-effective and qualitative products/services), less is distributed to each consumer.

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Per Bylund's picture
Columns on STR: 63

Has a passion for justice.