Why “Accumulating Wealth” is Wrong

Last week I went to a humanist event on Human Rights. There were two speakers exploring the topic of whether human rights are universal or not. One of them was a young sociologist who argued for a relativist position. While he said that he liked the idea that human rights could be applied everywhere, he thought that this was not possible as long as social conditions vary in different places. During his speech, it quickly became clear that he was a hardcore communist. He did not really talk a lot about human rights as individual rights at all. Instead, all he was talking about was how social conditions needed to be changed in order to produce some greater good. That means, to him it was all about the collective having rights rather than the individual person. Therefore, he thought that rights cannot be universal, they need to be adapted according to the condition that the local collective is in. At one point, he literally said that the idea of universal human rights can be in the way of social progress. I almost fell off my chair when I heard that. Yes mate, you have to break some eggs to make an omelet, right?

Of course he was not defending the communist regimes of the past. These people know that that would make them look silly. And no doubt, he thought of himself as a good human being, fighting for the right cause. Although he had just laid out the totalitarian nature of the communist program, he did not seem to be fully comprehend what his conclusions really meant.

The other person was a little bit better. He was an international humans rights lawyer and was indeed in favor of universal human rights. He argued that human rights are universal by definition. If we demand them to be universal then they will be. That was more to my liking.

None of them however really could give a clear account of what exactly human rights are. They basically seemed to go along with the UN human rights declaration of 1948. This declaration entails a mix of positive and negative rights. They were aware of the difference and both agreed that human rights have to contain some positive rights. Therefore, human rights are constantly up for debate and can be extended.

Libertarians of course understand that if you are asking for universal rights, these can only logically be negative rights. A positive right has to be provided by someone else. That means that the provider of the positive right clearly cannot have the same positive right as the recipient. If both had the same, then they would cancel each other out. Therefore, none of them would have it.

Positive rights also necessarily need to violate negative rights. You cannot really have both. A negative right is essentially the right to be left alone. But since a positive right needs to be actively provided, the person who has to provide it is not left alone and therefore loses his negative rights. That means that as soon as you start talking about legitimate positive rights, you automatically open the door to totalitarianism.

Since even the lawyer advocated positive human rights as legitimate, he found himself in the absurd position to argue on the one hand in favor of universal human rights in space, meaning applying to any human being no matter where they are. On the other hand however, he was arguing that human rights can change in time, in other words that human rights are work in progress. Considering that, I think it is fair to conclude that both were actually moral relativists.

Then came the Q&A. One older person, who I knew was a communist from a previous event where he gave a talk asked the question, whether people could be allowed to accumulate an unlimited amount of wealth. Needless to say that there was quick agreement among the speakers, as well as most people in the room that that could of course not be allowed.

The agreement did not surprise me. But hearing this question in this context being asked by a communist, I suddenly realized that there might indeed be something wrong with “accumulating unlimited amounts of wealth”. Talking about accumulating wealth does not tell you anything about the source from which this wealth originates. Surely, one cannot simply be in favor of wealth accumulation. Say, someone accumulates wealth by robbing banks, in that case that would not be acceptable, would it?

The economics model of a lot of socialists is that the economy is a big pie of wealth that simply exists. All we have to talk about is who gets how much of that pie. That means within this model, everything is a zero sum game. If I win, someone else has to lose. That some people in the room really seemed to use this theory became clear when the speakers pointed out that rich people clearly have more property rights than poor people. They simply did not seem to understand that property right is a negative right and has nothing to do with how much property you actually own.

If you don’t understand this then clearly accumulating wealth in any form means to steal something from someone else. If that were really the case, I too would be against wealth accumulation. On the basis of this theory, I can also understand why people think we need positive rights. Positive rights then essentially become negative rights, as they just prevent some people from stealing too much.

Of course this theory is everything but true. It is complete nonsense. Wealth needs to be constantly created. And creating wealth is not always very easy. Some people are better at it then others. But no one who creates wealth is stealing from someone else. None of that however comes out in the formulation “accumulating wealth”. If he understood economics, what he really should have asked is, whether people can be allowed to create an unlimited amount of wealth.

It would be interesting to see if people could as easily say no to that. Why would anyone be against creating wealth? Of course that still leaves open the possibility of taxing people who have created wealth. But once we are talking about wealth creation rather than wealth accumulation then the whole debate is shifting away from redistribution. Once you have the right model of economics you can then more easily argue why taxation is bad. Unfortunately, none of that was understood by most people in the room and so it ended up being a rather confused debate. But it was fun anyway.

Beware of the watermelons!

hi‘Imagine a world of efficient and welcoming public services, coordinated action on climate change, equality, workers’ rights, an economy that works for people and planet at a human scale, restorative justice, and real care for the future […] Imagine a political party that prioritises the protection of the land, the seas and their inhabitants.’

The slogan of the Green Party manifesto is “for the common good”, the typically presumptuous mantra of the collectivist. Above all others, the Greens are truly the party of utopianism; their manifesto is a vision of the kingdom on Earth. The party is an odd hybrid of a hard left socialist/60’s counter-culture political movement and a sort-of religious cult. This is a form of middle-class communism designed by a coalition of sad middle aged women, washed up commies and wet hippies.

When properly scrutinised the Green Party crumbles because their aspirations are built on a weak foundation of fantasy and blinkered dogma. Natalie Bennett is a weak performer, but she is caught out under pressure because her plan for Britain is not in the realms of reality economically or socially; it is just a risible leftist fantasy that has been discredited so many times its astonishing that the Greens are taken seriously at all.

Ludicrously, their populism and good intentioned extreme leftism coated in environmentalism is marketed as “fresh”, as if it offers something new that has not been tried before. Similar attempts to create this political paradise have failed all over the world, causing misery and poverty, not to mention tyranny.

There is nothing new on offer, just old school socialism and the high minded self righteousness of the ideologue.  The Greens believe in their own benevolence and want to expand the power of the state to dictate and impose their beliefs on the rest of us, while at the same time completely destroying the economy with their delusional policies.

The harshest criticism of the media is reserved for Ukip, the Green Party have escaped the ridicule they deserve because of the perceived virtue of being left-wing. It is deeply lamentable that a party that aspires to be influential in a coalition, has a greater membership than Ukip and the Lib Dems, and at its peak polled 11%, is not examined more closely and attacked more vehemently across the media spectrum on a sustained basis.

A party with a proclivity for announcing economically dubious policies without being able to offer details on how they would be funded should immediately set alarm bells ringing. The manifesto attempts to put its readers at ease, apparently everything is “fully costed”, there is even a section at the end of the document hilariously entitled “it does all add up”, just in case you still had doubts.

Let me examine that for a moment because it is abundantly clear that a Green Party government (*shudder*) would be the most haplessly profligate the country has ever known. Ending austerity is the standard cry of left wing populism, ignoring the reality of a £90 billion deficit and the relative modesty of the cuts in spending we have undergone in the previous five years. If you really want to end “austerity” then look no further, vote Green.

One of the few indisputable achievements of the Coalition has been to reduce spending by shrinking the size of the bloated public sector and simultaneously facilitating the creation of private sector jobs. This has, contrary to the warnings from the left, led to the creation of millions of jobs that have more than replaced those lost. No matter, the private sector is inherently immoral and the public sector automatically desirable and beneficial whatever the cost.

The Green Party would create “over one million good jobs that pay at least the living wage” (my bold). At least, because they would also whack up the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020, so actually the plan is for the government to create a million job that pay £10 an hour. Fantastic, it’s just so easy this governing lark. In-fact, why not create two million and pay them £20 an hour? That solves the unemployment and low pay problem at a stroke!

The private sector will see its wage bill sky rocket. This must sound fantastic to students and air headed leftists, but will that encourage small businesses to hire more staff? You do not need to know much about business to understand how the young and unskilled would be shunned by employers who deem them not worth this new high minimum.

It’s classic false economy, protecting the already employed but hampering job creation and leaving those with no or few skills unemployed, how very progressive. Luckily the poor who have been priced out of work will be receiving more benefits under the Greens, so that’s that sorted.

Needless to say the Green Party will take some pretty drastic action on climate change, but no other party has a pledge quite as grandiose as their plan to “hold the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees”. The environmental lobby will be happy with a Green government, but the poor certainly will not be.

Inflated energy bills caused by mad, reactionary “green” policies are already directly harming the poor; the Green Party want to take this to a whole new level. Since 2005 there has been a 50% increase in electricity prices, and heating a home in the UK has become 63% more expensive, all the while real wages have been in decline during the recession and the slow recovery. This is impoverishing to those who cannot afford to pay and leads the poor to consume less energy and suffer the consequences.

Green policies also restrict industry, hamper growth and disadvantage the UK against its international competitors, so the party pledge to “ban fracking, phase out coal power stations and say no to new nuclear” seems like a fast track to an exodus of industry and energy reliant business and the total depletion of the UK’s industrial base. Luckily they have this covered by the plan to “invest £85 billion to create a public programme of renewable electricity generation, flood defences and building insulation”, £45 billion of which is reserved for free loft insulation for us lucky citizens. Phew, for a minute there I was really worried.

The policies I have already discussed are eye wateringly expensive, so I think you are getting the gist. So I can brush past the plans for the massive expansion of the welfare state- including doubling child benefits and increasing the state pension to £180 a week – and investing £12 billion in the NHS while providing free universal care for the elderly and cancelling all private sector contracts; the nationalisation of the railways and the cutting of fares by 10%; cancelling all owed student debt and abolishing tuition fees. All in all, their economic plan would increase public expenditure by approximately £177 billion a year by 2020.

It does all add up” though remember, because they plan to raise £198 billion a year in taxes to pay for all this and be running a budget surplus after five years. Yep, cuckoo, cuckoo. La la la, la la la, la la la la la…

Now this is what you call a tax bomb shell: Corporation tax (the reduction in which has led to mass job creation) will be raised to 30% and bring in £12 billion. A new wealth tax “on the top 1%” of earners will bring in £25 billion. A levy on financial transactions dubbed the “Robin Hood tax” will boost the coffers to the tune of £20 billion. Abolishing capital gains tax allowance for another £3 billion. Duty on alcohol and tobacco will be increased by £1.4 billion annually and bring in £5.7 billion over the course of the parliament. A £16 billion green tariff on air travel will kill two birds with one stone, boosting income and the environment. The top rate of tax will be raised to 60% for an extra £2.3 billion of revenue. Most genius of all is the move to clamp down on tax avoidance for a whopping £30 billion a year. So there you have it, “it does all add up”, and you doubted them, you cynic you!

It is a suicide note for the economy, clearly. You do have to wonder whether the people who think this up, and those who believe in it, are mad, idiotic or just in the grip of a kind of political faith that defies rationality. Only being hopelessly captured by blind dogma explains this total lack of reason. It is typical of the utopianist to believe they can alter human nature and of the statist to believe they can force this change and impose their will.

Raising the top rate of tax to 50% did not bring in more revenue, in-fact it is likely to have had a net negative effect. This is because, humans being humans, they change the way they behave in response to circumstance, in this case punitive government policy.

So raise the top rate of tax and tax the assets of the rich, the most mobile section of the population, by 2% and watch the exodus. The exits will be pretty crowded though, as the investment banks rush out to avoid the “Robin Hood tax” and businesses the heavy corporation tax. The Green Party would certainly bring a vast boost to exports; Britain would be the biggest exporter of wealth, talent and jobs in the world.

It’s the left wing intellectuals, artists, film stars and comedians I feel for. Think of the strained excuses they’d have to dream up to explain why they’ve moved to the US or Monaco, or created a new company located in the Cayman Islands. Poor fools.

Natalie Bennett has a “brain fade” moment when she was utterly unable to explain how any of her ridiculous proposals would be funded. Caroline Lucas explained the Green Party position very well on her recent appearance on Any Questions? She said that anyone who was rich and not willing to pay the new taxes wasn’t someone they wanted in the country anyway, if they leave, then “good riddance”.

I’m sure they believe their economic policies are for the best. Nonetheless it is the stated position of the party for the “current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible”. In other words, they actively seek a permanent economic depression for the good of the environment. There would be mass poverty, starvation and social unrest, but we’d meet out emissions targets. It defies belief.

The Green Party are clearly not going to win the election, so why the need to tear into them like this? Because even though there vote share has dropped, 5% is still just too much. Nor is it reasonable or understandable why they have had a relatively easy ride from the media.

They are not a credible political party, not even as a minor part of a coalition let alone as a government. Their policies range from the ruinous to the ludicrous, their so-called “long term aspirations” are often just plain barmy and their plan for the country is economically illiterate. This is an extremist political force with a manifesto that is patently absurd and worthy of aggressive ridicule, mockery and critical analysis until the day they collapse.

A harmless, good intentioned movement they are not. The Greens are actually malevolent and regressive as well as laughable.