Why can’t I redistribute my own wealth? – Pacific Research Institute

Why can’t I redistribute my own wealth?

So Barack Obama got elected president of the United States, allegedly the freest country in the world and in human history, partly on the promise that he will redistribute a goodly portion of our wealth, yours and mine and everyone else’s. But why on earth does that make him a deserving individual? Why, in other words, is that a good thing?

First, why is it a good thing that this wealth is to be redistributed? And then why is he and his team of politicians and bureaucrats the ones who should do this redistribution?

I was writing some checks recently, some to pay bills to compensate people for the work they have done for me, and some as contributions to various causes — such as Robert Paul Wolff’s fund to help black South African graduate students, and the Institute for Justice. In short, I was doing some wealth redistribution, all on my own, without any need for help from the likes of Obama & Co. Every month I do this, some of it via the Internet, not even needing to write checks, merely clicking some icon and sending the electronic payment with the utmost efficiency, the money to be removed from my checking account and provided to those I have selected to receive it.

But I am not deemed smart or wise enough to carry off this task of wealth redistribution for nearly 50 percent of my wealth, not by a long shot. The local politicians hit me up for some $2K for my property taxes which they then will distribute according to their standards of what is important to finance with it; then of course every payday I have substantial sums extorted from me by various governments, through my employer (who is forced to be complicit in this extortion), and later, this coming April 15 or thereabouts, some more of my wealth will be expropriated from me all because I am not deemed smart and good enough to know how much of my own wealth should be distributed, what I should purchase with it and to whom I should contribute some of it as a gift.

If you consider it this way, the whole idea of wealth redistribution is a colossal insult to — and assault against — all of us citizens of the United States. Why should Mr. Obama and his cohorts be the ones to redistribute a substantial portion of my and your and everyone else’s wealth? Why not, say, the local bank robber or pickpocket or embezzler? What actually is the difference between Obama & Co. and all those unsavory characters such that if the latter attempt to do this wealth redistribution, they get prosecuted and convicted of criminal conduct, but when the latter proceed to do it they are paid a salary for doing so?

Oh, you may say, it is democracy that makes the difference. A majority of voting Americans have elected Obama & Co., so they are now authorized to confiscate a goodly part of everyone’s wealth and proceed to redistribute it as they in their ways choose to do. But why is this OK? How is it that these voting Americans may authorize these folks to engage in these dastardly deeds that would send other people to prison if they were caught doing them?

Surely these voting Americans may not authorize Obama & Co. to engage in murder or assault or even racial and sexual discrimination, not to mention banning the religious practices and free expression of Americans. So if they aren’t authorized to do those things — presumably because doing such things is vicious, criminal conduct — why do they get to extort funds from us and spend them as they see fit? What is the difference? Need? No, what people need they have to secure peacefully, from ones with whom they do trade or from the charity of their fellows, not by means of the threat of force from government.

It seems to me, certain beyond any reasonable doubt, that Obama & Co. are no better qualified to redistribute a substantial portion of everyone’s wealth than we ourselves are. And, furthermore, even if they by some magic did possess greater virtue and wisdom in the wealth-redistribution department, that still does not authorize them to do it.

As Abraham Lincoln so poignantly noted, “No man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent.” And the redistribution of wealth that politicians such as Barack Obama are embarking upon certainly isn’t done with the consent of those who own that wealth and from whom it will be confiscated.

So neither is there good reason to think these people are more qualified to do the wealth redistribution than we all are, nor, certainly, do they have any moral authority to confiscate the funds they are set to redistribute!


Tibor Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at Chapman University’s Argyros School of B&E and is a research fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and Hoover Institution (Stanford). He advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. His most recent book is “The Morality of Business, A Profession for Human Wealth-Care” (Springer, 2007). E-mail him at Visit our Web page devoted to Tibor at

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

Scroll to Top