The following quote is from pages 107-108 of Anthony de Jasay’s 1995 article “On Redistribution” as this article is reprinted in the 2002 collection of some of de Jasay’s writings, Justice and Its Surroundings (original emphasis; footnote deleted):

No one has, to my knowledge, explained why redistribution stopping well short of strict, universal equality should appease the less privileged if they were not appeased to start with.  If history teaches anything, it is the opposite.  More often than not, concessions have only incited the recipients, sensing that the other party was on the run, to demand more concessions.  If this were not so, concessions would not almost invariably turn out to be “too little, too late.”  Complete breakdowns in bargaining, ranging from deadlock to revolution, are usually proceeded (can we say “brought about”) not by unyielding resistance from the outset, but by a series of piecemeal concessions coming eventually to a halt.  What little we know of revolutions does not suggest that distributional conflict and class conflict can be best understood in terms of commercial bargaining, as depicted in the economist’s apparatus of a Pareto-superior contract curve of mutual advantage.

The Slippery Slope Of Wealth Redistribution

Wealth Redistribution

Once we violate the principle against allowing Jones or his agents to seize some of Smith’s stuff – even if the proffered justification for violating this principle is that Smith has a great deal more stuff than Jones has – there is no principle on which to ground either resistance to Jones’s efforts to seize even more of Smith’s stuff or Smith’s efforts to seize some of Williams’s stuff – or, even Smith’s efforts later, when the political tides shift (as they always do), to seize some of Jones’s stuff. The high practical importance of this principle against taking other people’s stuff is one reason why I oppose proposals for minimum-income guarantees.

One other reason I oppose all efforts to use state force to ‘redistribute’ income or wealth is that I believe such efforts to be purely and plainly immoral.  What I do not earn or entice through voluntary means to be given to me I have zero moral claim to have.  But you need not share my moral beliefs in order to fear, as I do, that as a practical matter of politics opening the doors to state-conducted ‘redistribution’ is to court danger by abandoning a useful bright-line rule.

Republished from Cafe Hayek.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University, and a former FEE president.

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