I wanted to bring attention to the article “The Moral Case for Soaking the Rich” on the New Republic’s website. This article was written by Jonathan Cohn, one of NR writers. In it, Cohn makes gives two “moral” reasons for raising taxes on those with higher incomes. First, he states that the wealth they have amassed must have contained some element of luck. Therefore, what they have gained was not gained entirely by hard work and thus is in some sense unjust. Since it is unjust, they have no right to keep it that the state cannot override. Second, the rich owe part if not most of their gains in income to society, such as good schools or helpful government policies. Therefore, they owe society and should give back through being taxed. In making these arguments, he pushes for ending President Bush’s tax cuts which are set to expire.
I do not bring up this article or its arguments because I agree. I think our tax system tends to punish success, risk, and ingenuity. Nor does a non-progressive tax system mean that the wealthy won’t pay significantly more than those making less money (even a flat tax does this, for 20% of 10,000,000 is much higher than 20% of 20,000). Luck and societal aid are pretty amorphous things and I would tend to leave how much a person “owes” to society to the person him or herself. The question dividing many in these discussions is whether the tax system’s primary purpose is to correct what we think to be unfair economic advantages or to raise revenue so that government can accomplish its legitimate ends.
But despite my differences with the article, I wanted to praise it. It is clear, well-written, and easy to engage; I can rebut the arguments because they are in fact arguments and not ranting or naked assertions. And this article is not strange to this publication. I’ve found the New Republic to be the finest magazine of the Left. It is partisan without usually being trite or ridiculous. Whether you subscribe to a more Liberal political view or not, you can go to its pages and find clear Liberal thinking. As you try to wade through the many partisan attacks that accompany election season and beyond, I hope you can turn to magazines like the New Republic and its moderate/conservative counterparts for idealogical AND logical discussion.