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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What does "Earn" mean

I read

Ad Man: " Those of us who sit above the $250k income threshold are too small in numbers to affect his appeal. What I do resent is that under an Obama administration, money we've work hard to earn (through the meritocracy system we put ourselves through) suddenly gets redistributed to those who did not earn it. I worked three jobs to put myself through college. I EARNED everything I've got. "

I assume ad man works in advertizing.

ad man, I think I don't use the word "earn" the way you do. I'd say money can be earned only by doing something socially useful. The fact that money was won in a fair competition does not, in my view, mean it was earned. One might argue that society owes you money because you have given society something. It doesn't make sense to say society owes you money, because you made intense efforts to get money. By your nickname, I guess that I wouldn't be convinced that you have been obtaining money in exchange for socially useful work.

OK now I am going to risk being rude. I will make an anology. What about criminals ? Some of them put great effort into their crimes and take enormous risks. Does that mean they have earned their wealth ? I'd say of course not. So is there a sudden jump from efforts that are so bad that we seize all the gains we can and send the actors to jail to efforts which are all equally good so the resulting wealth is equally earned if the same effort was put into obtaining it ? I hasten to add that I'm sure your income has only legal sources and more power to you. However, so is the wealth of someone who won the lottery. Your effort puts sociiety in your debt only to the extent that society benefited from it. Oh and if you say in the market society pays proportional to social benefit then you have to argue that drug kinpins are making a huge contribution to human welfare.


reason said...

It could be worse - he could work for a military contractor, or for exxon, or for a tobacco company! Or be a tax advisor!

Anonymous said...

I like your lottery analogy. Here is a person who evaluates the risks and determines how much money to invest in the enterprise. We should laud the winners of lotteries for they are the financial innovators of our time!

sth_txs said...

I have to agree with ad-man. Progressive income tax is a sorry system that has no basis in fairness.

I recall receiving bonus checks and having at least 45% confiscated by the government. Talk about not wanting to work harder.