A Nation of Peasants?
Victor Davis Hanson
Traditional peasant societies believe in only a limited good. The more your neighbor earns, the less someone else gets. Profits are seen as a sort of theft. They must be either hidden or redistributed. Envy rather than admiration of success reigns.
In contrast, Western civilization began with a very different ancient Greek idea of an autonomous citizen, not an indentured serf or subsistence peasant. The small, independent landowner -- if left to his own talents and if his success was protected by, and from, government -- would create new sources of wealth for everyone. The resulting greater bounty for the poor soon trumped their old jealousy of the better off.
Citizens of ancient
We seem to be forgetting that lately -- though Mao Zedong's redistributive failures in
Even after the failure of statism at the end of the Cold War, the disasters of socialism in
The more his administration castigates insurers, businesses and doctors; raises taxes on the upper income brackets; and creates more regulations, the more those who create wealth are sitting out, neither hiring nor lending. The result is that traditional self-interested profit-makers are locking up trillions of dollars in unspent cash rather than using it to take risks and either lose money due to new red tape or see much of their profit largely confiscated through higher taxes.
No wonder that in such a climate of fear and suspicion, unemployment remains near 10 percent. Deficits chronically exceed
The public is seldom told that 1 percent of taxpayers already pay 40 percent of the income taxes collected, while 40 percent of income earners are exempt from federal income tax -- or that present entitlements like
That limited-good mind-set expects that businesses will agree that they now make enough money and so have no need to pursue any more profits at the expense of others. Therefore, they will gladly still hire the unemployed and buy new equipment -- as they pay higher health care or income taxes to a government that knows far better how to redistribute their income to the more needy or deserving.
This peasant approach to commerce also assumes that businesses either cannot understand administration signals or can do nothing about them. So who cares that in the
Health insurers should not mind that Health and Human Services Secretary
I suppose that no corporation should worry that the government arbitrarily announced -- without benefit a law or court ruling -- that it wanted BP to put up
What optimistic Americans used to call a rising tide that lifts all boats is now once again derided as trickle-down economics. In other words, a newly peasant-minded America is willing to become collectively poorer so that some will not become wealthier.
The present economy suggests that it is surely getting its wish.
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A Nation of Peasants?
(c) 2010 Victor Davis Hanson