Of Red Herrings and Other Fallacies
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The issue “at hand” (in recent posts and conversations here) is whether government should redistribute wealth. Nozick’s and Rawls’s social ethical philosophies are meant to answer that question (although they MAY address other questions as well). They are not meant to address every ethical issues someone might think of.
Should government redistribute wealth in some form or manner? Nozick and his followers (whether they know they are his followers or not) say no. That is allegedly unjust and therefore unethical and therefore wrong. What, then, is government’s “job?” According to Nozick and his followers it is mainly to protect private property and property acquired through a “fair” transaction is worthy of protection by government. A fair transaction is any one devoid of theft or deception. This theory ignores the reality of exploitation. According to this theory, price gouging in a situation of shortage even of a life-sustaining “product” (water, basic food, medicine, etc.) is just; government should not interfere in the free market which is solely governed by supply and demand.
Rawls’s answer is different but does not appeal to religion; all reasonable (not demented) people under the “veil of ignorance,” in the “original condition,” would vote for a system of government that “maximizes the minimum.” Things like government redistribution of wealth, without destroying incentive or profit, and government provision in a situation of shortage (as described above) are just and right.
Two common responses to Rawlsian thought (“justice as fairness”) are simply fallacies. One is the red herring of claiming that desire for redistribution of wealth, “welfare,” is motivated by envy. There is no way to prove that. No one can know other people’s motives if they are not revealed. Many people who agree with Rawls and support government redistribution of wealth have been and are affluent and have no reason to envy people with wealth.
The second fallacy often used to undermine belief in government redistribution of wealth is that all taxation is theft or even that income tax is theft. No government can exist without taxing someone, somehow. Income tax is the fairest tax because it is the only tax people under the veil of ignorance in the original condition would decide to have. Other taxes are not based on ability to pay.
Because these two fallacies are such obvious fallacies I will no longer be posting comments here that rely on them.