“Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.” Abigail Adams “Remember the Ladies Letter” 1776
“…. you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.” Emerson Self-Reliance p. 23
A few weeks ago I was mindlessly perusing Facebook only to come across a picture of my youngest maternal cousin in a beautiful and pricey canary yellow prom dress. My first thought was excitement for her and warm fuzzy feelings for the wonderful young women she has become. A few weeks later, I was again pursing Facebook only to come across a picture of this same cousin in pictures for another prom, and she was wearing a completely different, although beautiful, gown. I could not help but to feel miffed that her parents, who are part of the 1 % bought her two separate and expensive gowns. . I immediately began thinking of what I would deem better uses for all that money. I thought about how many supplies I could buy for the DV shelter I volunteer for, or how many books I could purchase for next my next semester. I felt kind of discussed at the extravagance over two dresses that my cousin will probably never wear again. Surely I know how better to spend that money. Surely that money could have been put to better use. Yet, then I began to think, who am I to tell my aunt and uncle to spend their money? My aunt and uncle are part of the 1%, but they did not start off that way. They both started working for company which partly for all of their hard work allowed the company to become as successful as it is.And in the midst of the economic recession both my aunt and uncle opted to be paid less so that the company could keep workers employed. They also happen to be super generous people on so many levels. Who am I to think that I know better how to spend their money than they do? This fallacy, the thought that we know better how to spend other people’s money, is demonstrated in what Frederic Bastiat called the “broken window fallacy.”
Here a video is John Stossel explaining the theory: https://youtu.be/UPmo2e-bAMQ
This brought me to the idea of voting for progressive tax increases, especially for the 1%. What is the thought behind that? Is it not the same tyrannical thought that emerged in my mind over my cousin’s prom dresses? We think we know better than certain people, mostly rich people, on how they should spend their money. Redistribution of their tax dollars to people who live under the poverty line, people who need healthcare, unemployment benefits, etc. While the intentions of those of us who vote for progressive tax increases may be good. I want to pose this question: does intent really matter? If we think that we know better than others how to spend their hard-earned money, what does that say about us? What I am suggesting, Dear Reader, is that there is a tiny tyrant in all of us. Also, if those of us who vote for progressive tax increase become a majority, which we are, are we not falling into the pit of the tyranny of the majority? In our reading of Democracy in America, Tocqueville on page 259 warns the reader:
Some have not feared to assert that a people can never outstep [sic] the boundaries of justice and reason is those affairs which are peculiarly its own; and that consequently full power may be given to the majority by which it is represented. But this is the language of a slave. A majority taken collectively is only an individual , whose opinions and frequently whose interests, are opposed to that of another individual, who is to styled as a minority. If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to that same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase their strength. For my own part, I cannot believe it; the power to do everything, which I should refused to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them.
Then I guess this is the question for you, Dear Reader: do you have a tiny tyrant inside you, too?