Sam Harris is bemused: he made the simple, obvious statement that the US needs to tax the rich more, and furious readers of his blog stomped off in a huff. He has discovered an easy way to chase away readers!
I fear it won’t work as well here, since my anti-libertarian views are already well known, but I agree entirely with his suggestion “that taxes should be raised on billionaires.” I’d go a bit further — raise them on millionaires, too. Raise them on people making over $100,000 a year, while you’re at it (that comes close to me, too, since we have a two-income family).
But Harris has doubled down. Now he’s pissed off the Randroids.
As someone who has written and spoken at length about how we might develop a truly “objective” morality, I am often told by followers of Rand that their beloved guru accomplished this task long ago. The result was Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand’s attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing. Even in high school, I found that my copies of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged simply would not open.
This could get interesting, if only Harris allowed comments on his blog — I believe he has just pushed the button on the foreheads of the True Libertarians labeled “Frappé” and we can expect some delicious brain smoothies to be dispensed out of their ears any moment now.
The real question, though, is why Americans are so adamantly opposed to sensible taxation — it’s completely irrational and damaging. I blame the attitude that we see expressed by capitalist extremists and that is so well represented by the Prosperity Gospel. It’s a nicely circular tautology: wealth comes to those who deserve it most. How do we know that? Because the rich are wealthy. It leads to the ideas that warp our country and poison our economies, that the rich deserve their money, and it would therefore be unfair to punish them with taxes for their success, while the poor are clearly lazy parasites (because they aren’t rich!) and therefore deserve to be squeezed and punished further. The idea that a poor person might deserve security and stability and a living wage with reasonable work hours simply because they are humans and fellow citizens is alien to people who think like that — poverty is bad and only comes to bad people.