Your Sweat Given Rights (Off Topic)

I would like to introduce a possible new term to help counter the seemingly increased use of “God Given Rights” by lawyers, politicians, and various activists that wish latch onto or hand out other peoples’ resources and freedoms. This particular rant was inspired by an ad on the radio today by a lawyer. “You have a God Given Right to a good job, a living wage, a safe living environment, good food, and so on. Followed by a list of possible reasons to call him so he could force them to deliver yours. Included were brags about how much he had won for deserving clients.

I would like to propose the sound bite “Sweat Given Rights” to indicate to people that all these desirable outcomes have to be paid for by the sweat of  someone, often someone else. That good job was created by someone that earned it, often with long hours and personal financial risk. Same with safety, nutrition, medical care, and education among other desirable  services most of us want. Someone has to sweat to provide whatever desirable thing we want and I think it is past time for the word war to start a reasoned counter attack. Reasoned in today’s world mostly isn’t going to be scholarly tomes invoking the Constitution, or interpretations of biblical verse that are obscure to any not already knowledgeable.

I would prefer TANSTAAFL  except that it doesn’t sound bite well enough to get through to many that aren’t going to research issues. Aggressively looking for simple soundbites to counter bad memes might well be one of the important tools to stemming some of the abuses by well meaning people that are following  bad leaders and getting bad advice.

This phrase doesn’t imply throwing people out on the streets to die. It simply reminds some that might listen that TANSTAAFL.


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I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.

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About johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
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28 Responses to Your Sweat Given Rights (Off Topic)

  1. William says:

    Except–the whole point of capitalism is that the people with the capital get those nice things just by dint of having capital, without having to sweat at all.

  2. Bob Steinke says:


    I like the phrase sweat-given rights. I’m not sure if this is how you meant it, but it is a good description of a two-way responsibility relationship. A person has a responsibility to put forth a good faith effort to not be a burden on others, and if they do, they have the right to a fair economic deal. If someone is working full time and can’t afford basic necessities like health care then there’s something wrong with the system. It’s not just personal irresponsibility. The conversation tends to be either/or. Either you deserve a guaranteed check, no strings attached, or you are on your own and the world can wash its hands of your problems. Mutual responsibility doesn’t seem to have a place in our legal/political framework.


  3. Bob Steinke says:

    To address William’s point:

    Having unearned income just for owning property combined with inheritable wealth does seem to me to be a major problem for equal opportunity that I think financial conservatives dismiss too quickly.

  4. johnhare john hare says:

    Bob, I think you nailed it. Responsibility goes both ways. We have a responsibility to develop and maintain a functioning society for all that will try. Unfortunately, too many are people are either/or as you say. For you, William, and most of the people that have read this blog, we can do reasoned arguments and discussions that address both the undeserving poor as well as the undeserving rich.

    I know quite a few first generation rich and excellent work ethic is the common denominator. It seems to be the following generations that try to live off their capital and eventually lose it to sloth. William, you have a point that some live off their capital for a while, but historically that ride eventually ends if they don’t work their investments. Also, even if it was skull sweat instead of manual labor, someone had to build that capital in the first place.

    My point is that many of the things people are calling rights are simply calls to take from those that have simply because they have it. In many cases, people are convinced that they deserve things they have never even tried to earn.

    I can see many ways of improving the quality of life for those less fortunate that doesn’t require forcing others to subsidize them. It’s more a matter of removing barriers than forcing behaviors on them or the taxpayers. That’s a chapter though and not a sound bite. I think sound bites are becoming more important to the twitter generation.

    Another chapter is the protectionism of businesses that ‘protect’ them from competition. A gas station cannot sell gas for $4.00.9 a gallon if there is a station across the street selling it for $2.65.9. Out in the country with no competition, it might be able to get that price. The same thing works on all kinds of businesses. Building permits, occupational licences, high tariffs, and the like are ways of driving up costs on the consumer, and costing jobs/income for the unconnected. This can easily create unearned profits that all too often transfer to campaign donations.

  5. Bob Steinke says:

    “I can see many ways of improving the quality of life for those less fortunate that doesn’t require forcing others to subsidize them.”

    I can see where you are going, but I think implementing those ways will probably require some resources. Those resources will have to come from somewhere, and you’ll inevitably wind up with something that’s effectively a subsidy.

    For example, there are probably a lot of people on government assistance that really need help with life skills more than they need a check. We could have a program where people get a life coach and have to make a plan that puts them on an upward trajectory in order to get a check, and they have to stick to the plan (that’s the sweat-given rights part). Those life coaches will need to be paid.

    And there are people who can’t get a job because they have no transportation or childcare, or getting those things costs more than they can make. Removing barriers will require resources.

    Welfare work requirements are kind of like this, except they tend to come with just the requirements, and no additional help to remove the roadblocks.

    John, I’m curious what you think of the idea of a universal job guarantee?

  6. peterh says:

    A thought to go along with “sweat given rights”, Free markets as an economy where exchange of wealth is governed by mutual consent. I may not take what you have except if you agree, which commonly requires that I give you an exchange that you find worth what you’re giving up.

    I don’t like the word “capitalism” because different people use it with such conflicting meanings. Some mean “free market”, others closer to “rule by the wealthy”.

    Universal job guarantee? Sounds like another proposal from a leftist who sees the form of a market economy but doesn’t understand the substance. We want people to have the opportunity to work for a living, but a government guarantee of a job tends to lead to make-work, without respect for the value produced.

  7. johnhare john hare says:

    Bob, I am against the guarantee, especially as outlined in your link. The new guarantee would be a head on attack against dozens of entrenched bureaucracies. In defending their turf, the likely outcome would be they keep their agencies while adding another layer of non-productive bureaucrats with the incentives to keep ‘their’ clients out of the regular workforce less they lose their jobs. Second level, as Peterh mentions is that government supplied jobs would likely become make work while reducing the available productive work force.

    I think frontal attacks against agencies is similar to frontal attacks in battle, expensive and ineffective. We need ways around the bureaucracies. Your mention of life skills is particularly apt, though I rate is as less important than a good life attitude. There are many programs to train or retrain people that are only effective on the motivated.

    There are so many jobs unfilled in this country today that I think the unemployed are either unwilling, unable, or are prevented from entering the useful workforce. One of the things that need to be learned by many is that a paycheck is ultimately derived from productivity rather than simply showing up. Welfare work requirements are top down and suffer from that. The work needs to be derived from work that needs to be done now by the people that need it done.

    There will be resources to assisting people in moving on. Intelligently applied, most of those resources can come from the private sector. Apprenticeship programs by a company, that creates useful workers in the current workforce and not the one that existed when an agency was created. Making it legal to build and operate rental dwellings appropriate for the poor even down to the level of the currently homeless.

    I started another rant here that probably needs to stop. But last shot. I am against top down solutions as they tend to empire build instead of solve problems after a while, SLS, JWST, etc. I am even suspicious of the ones I am in favor of like the reverse income tax.

  8. Bob Steinke says:


    I’m thinking of a pretty broad definition of life skills. I would include issues about attitude and motivation, or even just being able to show up at a particular place on time and fill out a form. So I don’t take unfilled jobs as conclusive evidence that there aren’t a lot of people who genuinely need help to change their situation and would respond positively to positive reinforcement.

    A big source of the different opinions about this issue comes from different estimates of what percentage of people are wellspings of human potential waiting to be unlocked versus lazy moochers who could help themselves but would rather complain and get something for free.

    Maybe I met 2-3 people in my life whose situation was completely turned around by the right mentoring, and someone else met 2-3 people who got exactly that sort of mentoring but just did the least they could get away with. Obviously, neither of those is a statistically significant sample to make statements about the population as a whole.

    I think the first thing to do is acknowledge that both sides are working with different estimates of an unknown (and maybe unknowable) parameter based on scanty data and personal biases.

    I do tend to have an optimistic view of people and feel we should help first, and then if someone shows through their actions that they won’t hold up their end then we can say we have no further responsibility to help.

    As for the morality of forcing people to subsidize helping others, I’ve thought about that and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: To the extent that our society doesn’t have equal opportunity, those who got more opportunity have a responsibility to contribute some of their resources to help those who got less opportunity. Now, calculating opportunity to send people the correct bill is a difficult challenge. Most likely we will have to settle for an approximation. To me, a progressive income tax and some inheritance tax are an acceptable approximation.

    As for a job guarantee becoming a bloated bureaucracy that doesn’t even kill off the previous bloated bureaucracies that it was supposed to be an improvement on, *sigh*, yes that is a possibility. The fact that I will never be in a position to actually influence whether or not this happens makes it easy for me to think about what would be the best clean-sheet design instead of the best we could actually get in practice. As a tie-in to the space theme of the blog, the shuttle-derived folks had some legitimate points that those are not the same.


    There’s a lot I would like to say about your ideas, but I fear it would be even further off-topic from this off-topic post so I’ll just say this: Neoclassical economic theory says that free markets always give everyone exactly what they deserve. Neoclassical economic theory also says that every good is always sold at the marginal cost to produce it, so how do you explain movie theater popcorn and inkjet printer cartridges?

    In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice they are not. If the poor really aren’t getting their fair share then the disaffection of the working poor and discouragement of the long-term unemployed could be a rational response to the accurate knowledge that, “Work hard and you will get your fair share.” is not the solution to their problems.

  9. johnhare john hare says:

    I have been involved with quite a few people that, like myself, weren’t smart enough to be born on the right side of the tracks. One of the life skills that is not being taught by our public institutions and many parents is that failure is just an inning, not the game. There are plenty of physical resources out there that only work for people that are motivated and have a good life outlook. “I deserve” is a success killer.

    Work hard and failing to get your fair share attitude suffers from the difficulty in determining your fair share. Swimming may not keep you from drowning, but not swimming guarantees it. Just as high wages doesn’t guarantee a good work force, but low wages guarantee that your best people will vote with their feet.

    I have been involved in several efforts to help people move ahead. I would put our success rate at about 20%. Our ability to keep trying is based on a couple of things. The 80% that don’t work out move on and cost us nothing afterwards. The 20% that do work out don’t need us after the tipping point. Both of these factors seem to be missing from most government programs. A very high percentage of the failures seem to believe someone else should do it all for them i.e. God Given Right. The successes all believe it is Sweat Given Rights though not by that term.

    Two anecdotes.
    We gave a lawnmower and trailer to a young man without a job and got him started. Later it was raining every day and he had no work though grass was growing like crazy. It turned out that he had quit advertising on Craigs List because he obviously couldn’t mow in the rain.
    A woman working at a print shop asked if I thought she should go on her own. If she was out on vacation or something, it took a day or two to get your prints, but if she was in the prints would be ready in a couple of hours. I dropped a fifty on the counter and said that talk was cheap and I vote for her to go for it. A half dozen other contractors did the same thing. When she opened her doors, over half of the customers followed her with their business within a month.

    If you can find any way to motivate those that don’t care, my group would like to hear from you.

  10. Paul451 says:

    “I know quite a few first generation rich and excellent work ethic is the common denominator.”

    I can handle the idea that someone 10, 20 even 50 times harder and smarter than the average. And that they should deserve 10, 20 or even 50 times the wealth.

    But does the hardest working billionaire really work a thousand times harder or smarter than a mere millionaire?

    In a period where the US Real GDP nearly tripled, the median wage, the median household income, and the median individual/household wealth, all stagnated. “The economy” more than doubled in size, but the average person didn’t gain an inch.

    When the system itself is fundamentally broken, lecturing individuals to do better, work harder, change their attitude, etc, is just a kick in the guts. It’s just kicking down.

    Someone on another site says that the main philosophic difference in the US is not left/right, liberal/conservative, but whether you believe that a nation’s economy exists to serve its people, or whether its people exist to serve the economy.

    If I had some magic economic plan that could double the income/wealth of the average American, but the GDP would be stagnant for the next couple of decades, would that be a good plan or a bad plan?

    And if someone else proposed a plan that would double or triple the GDP, but the income for the average American would stagnate or decline for decades, would that be a good or bad plan? (That is the one you guys have been voting for, for at least three decades.)

    “government supplied jobs would likely become make work while reducing the available productive work force.”

    Like “Universal Basic Income” people don’t really seem to understand concepts like this, they just react to the surface appearance. As a replacement for welfare, it doesn’t matter if it’s make-work. (Of course, if you can find something of value for them to do…) Same basic cost, but improved culture. (The article said lower cost, but he ignored administration overhead.)

    Likewise, it doesn’t “reduce the available work force”, it’s for people who are unemployed. Okay, sure, f you set the wage at a decent level, you obviously punish businesses who don’t pay a liveable wage, but… I’m not shedding tears if Walmart has to up its wages. (Maybe “low wages guarantee that your best people will vote with their feet”, but there are enough people desperate for work that entire business models work on impoverishing workers.)

    Re: Bureaucracy

    Why do you assume that a universal job guarantee must be a bureaucratic nightmare, but your own proposals would be “intelligently applied”?

    Aside: Did you realise that a “reverse income tax” is just a UBI in different clothes?

  11. Paul451 says:

    “I can handle the idea that someone 10, 20 even 50 times”

    “works” was meant to be in there.

    “But does the hardest working billionaire really work a thousand times harder or smarter than a mere millionaire?”

    I didn’t really finish this thought. In many sports, you finish 56 to 55, that means the teams are clearly as good as each other. But one team gets the all the points and the other gets none. Business has a similar pattern. Being slightly better than your rival can get you orders of magnitude more wealth. It’s not a “fair” game. The result is disproportionate to the actual difference in skill, intelligence or hard work.

    There’s a reason that many sports include progressive or socialist-like systems between seasons. Such as giving better draft-picks (and the fact that there’s a player-draft at all) to lower finishing teams. If they didn’t, one good season would lead to a team picking up more membership/sponsorship and being able to afford better players, leading to an even stronger season… rinse, repeat, and you soon end up with one to two teams dominating and everyone else struggling. A boring game for the fans. To make the game worthwhile, you have to tilt the playing field towards to losers.

    Business is the same. A tiny advantage results in a huge difference in outcomes, which in turn gives you more and more advantage going forward. To make the outcome proportional to the actual differences, you have to massively bias the game against that trend.

  12. Jim Davis says:

    I can handle the idea that someone 10, 20 even 50 times harder and smarter than the average. And that they should deserve 10, 20 or even 50 times the wealth.

    But does the hardest working billionaire really work a thousand times harder or smarter than a mere millionaire?

    You don’t get paid for effort; you get paid for results.

    JK Rowling may not have worked any harder than legions of would be novelists who never made a sale but her results were infinitely greater and her compensation reflects that.

    Suppose you and I each invest a $1000 in a technology start up. One of us invests in Free Energy, Inc, the other in AntiGravity, Ltd. One takes off and is wildly successful; one goes nowhere. One of us is richly rewarded; the other losses $1000, even though our efforts were about the same. That’s how it should work, no?

  13. Paul451 says:

    And then what happens? After that first success?

    The one who is successful has a wildly disproportionate advantage in future contests. The process is cumulative. They can self-fund their next idea without outside investment capital, meaning it gets funded. (And they’re more likely to attract outside investment at better terms anyway, with people wanting to attach themselves to success.)

    Their rival’s ideas, otoh, don’t have that advantage. Most won’t get funded. Therefore even if the rival’s other ideas are much better than the winner’s, society is largely denied them.

    Is that how it should work?

    And the winner passes on that advantage to their kids, and to their kids. They have access to better education, better life-long business connections, and a financial boost for whatever venture they want. The rival passes on his disadvantage to his kids. Regardless of how smart they are, how hard working they are, they are starting much, much further back in the field. We, the rest of society, lose access to their potential.

    Is that how it should work?

    I’m not suggesting eliminating success, or forcing equal outcomes. It’s about countering the incredible bias of wealth. Ensuring that society itself has access to the best potential of every generation, not just the children of the rich. Ensuring that a single success, or parent’s success, doesn’t tilt the playing field so much that it becomes almost impossible for the poor to succeed, almost impossible for the rich to fail. (In the latter case, addressing a point John raised, an incompetent wealthy heir can rent competence. Hire people to manage their money. Protecting them from their financial incompetence.)

    And it’s not about some impossible fairies-and-unicorns idealism. America had a more egalitarian culture between the ’30s and the ’80s. (Amongst whites men, at least. But increasingly amongst others.) Taxes on wealth and inherited wealth were much higher, etc. But people were still rich, and poor. There was just more opportunity for the smarter/harder-working poor to succeed. More chance for the dumber/lazier/greedier rich to fail.

    Starting in the early ’70s and entrenched in the ’80s, you reversed that.

    I used the sporting analogy before. The “socialism” in many sports doesn’t prevent the best team from winning. Score 56-55 and your team wins all the points for the game. Do that enough and you win the season. The socialism occurs between seasons (such as creating a player “draft” and giving losing teams more draft picks), ensuring that one success doesn’t poison the rest of the competition, one success doesn’t become entrenched forever. (Society is worse, because if you’re rich enough, you can buy the umpires, get the rules changed to favour your, etc.)

    And that rebalancing is what egalitarian societies do, it’s what America did once, it’s what you’ve chosen not to do for the last few decades. And society reflects that, it’s mean, kick-down, pessimistic and paranoid. You reap what you sow.

    And it’s also dangerous. In history, the accumulation of wealth and power leads to unrest amongst the poor, often exploited by those who want more power. And unless society acts to redress the gross and increasing imbalance, it will lead to “revolution” and usually chaos. (Or as someone put it, the inevitable accumulation of wealth either leads to a organised redistribution of wealth, or a disastrous redistribution of poverty. There are no other options.)

  14. peterh says:

    A point that commie slime don’t get: as long as the rule is you can’t take what I have unless I agree, and as long as what I have to offer in the way of skills and labor is worth something, the rich will still have incentive to offer value worth my effort to gain my labors. The guy who “won the last round” has to keep delivering value or his net worth slips away.

    And yes, I’m bitter over thieving commie slime throwing gravel in the gears of anything that works.

  15. Paul451 says:

    “thieving commie slime”

    Yeah, nice talking to you too, prick.

  16. Chris Stelter says:

    “Sweat given rights” is a very Marxist idea. I’m not joking.

  17. Chris Stelter says:

    …this is what Benjamin Franklin said about taxes generally and the morality of them:

    “All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”

  18. johnhare john hare says:

    I can accept your thought that sweat given rights is Marxist considering his writings. I didn’t connect to his thought that all should belong to the workers, with his meaning the sweat workers and not the investment or mind workers. So how do you convey that all things consumed must be produced with simple sentences appropriate for the twitter age? Or do you believe that the nation has a right to dispose of everything? I’m not clear on your meaning.

    The Benjamin Franklin quote seems more deep state than I had been aware of from any of the founding fathers. Not that I’m deeply read on them. Following that would seem to eliminate private investment and high compensation for high performers. Can you elaborate?

  19. Chris Stelter says:

    I don’t agree with Marx totally, but his point was that the backing of all money is labor, whether physical sweat labor or mind labor or whathaveyou. That point is fairly valid, but definitely doesn’t mean you have to buy into his other ideas (some of which have been pretty terrible when applied to reality).

    But I do think Franklin is correct. It is perfectly appropriate morally for society to levy taxes, provided they don’t prevent people from leaving. It may be a bad idea to levy high taxes, but this is a different argument.

    Franklin was responding to those who claimed that taxes are unjust. His point is that they are just payment that we must make for living with the benefits of society. It’s like club dues. You want to enjoy roads? Officers to keep the peace and enforce just laws (including the protection of life and property)? Generally being prevented from dying in the streets? Well, all these things require taxes, and if you choose to live in such a society, you must pay these dues. And, in fact, almost all your possessions are made possible by living in a peaceful society with just laws (including the protection of property), so in fact society has a right to levy dues on you. Just like if you were a member of a club.

  20. johnhare John hare says:

    I don’t have a problem with taxes. I have a problem with people that won’t try appropriating my efforts. Taxes are needed for several things, tax for charity not so much.

  21. Bob Steinke says:


    The story of the guy who stopped mowing lawns when it rained sounds like me as a teenager. Fortunately, I had parents who would ask, “Why do you think you can’t mow in the rain?”, or, “What else could you do instead?” If this person had a life coach meet with him twice a week for six months maybe the lightbulb would start turning on that he has more control over his situation than he thought. Of course, that would cost more than just buying a lawnmower.

    There’s a charity in Wyoming called “Climb Wyoming” that seems to be having success with a more holistic life coaching type system. Although, it is possible their clients are already self-selected from your 20%.

  22. Bob Steinke says:

    Where some people see “taxes for charity” others see “taxes to correct the injustice of lack of equal opportunity in our society.”

  23. johnhare John Hare says:

    He was early thirties and married.

  24. Paul451 says:

    If we’re quoting, why not Abe Lincoln:

    “To secure to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.” – 1847

    While supporting striking workers: “Labor is prior to, and superior to capital” – 1861

    As for Marx, he saw the inevitability of the theft from the workers, and the resulting social unrest. He thought that his version of socialism would become inevitable. FDR showed that reform and redistribution could be a peaceful alternative. The moneyed classes despised him, still do. But, as David Brin points out, the people everyone praises as the “Greatest Generation”, the image that most MAGA-types have when they think of Great America, they re-elected FDR three freakin’ times.

  25. James Walker says:

    “I can handle the idea that someone 10, 20 even 50 times harder and smarter than the average. And that they should deserve 10, 20 or even 50 times the wealth.

    But does the hardest working billionaire really work a thousand times harder or smarter than a mere millionaire?”

    Harder or smarter? Maybe not. But better? Why not – we all do.

    How far did you travel to work? How long would that have taken you before the development of motorised transport? You’ve probably achieved *days* of movement: and your pay reflects that.

    How many people did you communicate with who were in different buildings? This is a biggie of the information age; I worked in a registry in the ’80s, and dealt with the massive effort involved in pre-computer communications in a big organisation. Matters that can now be handled in real time took weeks, as letters were exchanged by courier. (Although ‘phones were normal, they were actually a problem as they didn’t leave a data trail, making life impossible for replacement staff, so letters were preferred).

    All invested wealth boils down to – you can hire 100 men to dig a ditch, or one man with an earth moving machine to dig a ditch. Either way, the ditch is the same value to you, so you’re either dividing the available wages between 100 manual laborers, or between one laborer and the provider of the earth moving machine. Now, that one guy is worth a lot of money (not least because he’s being paid money to not break the machine), but so is the provider of the machine. Punishing the provider of the machine doesn’t help the driver, it’ll just result in him being once again a digger, on a fraction of what he could have been earning. (Nor does it help the other 99; the increased wealth allows the creation of more jobs – if that wasn’t the case we’d have had 90%+ unemployment during the industrial revolution).

  26. Oliver Milne says:

    It seems to me like there’s a confusion that many people on the right make that’s worth exposing here. On one hand, there’s the point that if hard work isn’t rewarded, people won’t work hard. On the other, there’s the idea that I deserve whatever I can get my hands on, so long as it’s not literally stolen goods. These get conflated into the idea that if people aren’t allowed to keep whatever they can acquire, they won’t bother developing a work ethic and the economy will collapse.

    I think it’d be more productive if we’d carefully distinguish between these two ideas. It’s undeniable, whether you’re on the left or the right, that it’s economically important for hard work to be rewarded. But it doesn’t follow from that fact that access to vital, basic goods – housing, healthcare, food, education – should be granted and withheld to encourage it. Without people’s hard work these goods would not be produced, but that hard work can be elicited by other means, such as rationing access to luxuries, status indicators, and so on. This is how social-democratic societies work.

    The debate is then whether it’s better to encourage hard work through this kind of social-democratic system or via a hardcore free-market system. This is where the second idea – that whatever I can get hold of without force or fraud is mine – comes into play. This intuition has to be held up against those in favour of the social-democratic system – straight-up value-based ideas like ‘nobody should die of a preventable disease’, but also pragmatic points, such as ‘a social-democratic society benefits everyone by protecting them from certain risks’. Make a bad investment in a free-market society, and you can lose everything; in a social-democratic society, you know you’ll at least have the basics you need to get by, no matter what. That provides a peace of mind that’s unavailable to most people in a free-market society.

    Which of those two sides you find more compelling is up to you, but there’s also a case for redistribution for the sake of national security. The more inequality grows, the more political power the rich have – and they have powerful incentives to use it to undermine the free market and thereby secure their wealth. This is visible in the US all over the place – look at your awful internet provision monopolies, for instance. A free market is no good if it collapses into oligarchy, and the best way to prevent that is to stop people getting oligarch-level wealthy in the first place.

  27. johnhare john hare says:

    Preventing success is one of the routes to universal poverty, except a few in control that live off the sweat of the serfs. Regulatory capture and crony capitalism is a major problem, but attacking the wealthy for being wealthy is a formula for disaster. Attacking the crooked for being crooked is another matter and should be handled at all levels instead of just the upper levels. Breaking Tigers’ clubs won’t improve my golf game.

  28. peterh says:

    Oliver Milne, it sounds to me like you’re trying to defend theft under color of law.

    Risk of failure is as much as incentive as chance of success. Welfare systems all too easily become a disincentive to work. And inequality is far worse under a heavily managed economy than is common in a free market.

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