Let’s discuss two people, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jones.
Mr. Adams is 35. He spends most of his time surfing in Southern California. He is blonde, tall, muscular and handsome. Women flock to him and he has had scores of relationships. But Mr. Adams does not like to work. He has spent most of his adult life going from job to job. He will take a job for a year and then lose the job and get unemployment. Currently, he lives in a house in Venice Beach with several other guys. He gets food stamps (now called CalFresh). He works the occasional odd job and makes a few hundred dollars a week on the side (in cash). He owes money to a long list of people, but he is a pretty pleasant guy and charming and he gets away with not paying back the money he owes. He does not like to do favors for other people, and usually finds a way to disappear when people are asking for help moving. He thinks “the rich” should pay more taxes and does not think it is fair that the rich have so much and people like him have so little.
Mr. Jones is 55. He is a paraplegic and has spent most of his adult life in a wheelchair ever since an accident when he was a teenager. He is not an attractive man physically and does not have a girlfriend (although he would like to). He has never had a serious relationship with a woman and is lonely. Mr. Jones has always been fascinated with computer programming, and has started a business where he makes apps for the Iphone. He works 12 hours a day and his only real recreation is when he takes his wheelchair down to the bike path along the beach in Santa Monica, California, where he lives. One of his apps is really popular, and Mr. Jones is going to have a good year in 2011 — he might make $500k this year. Mr. Jones is one of the 1 percent financially. In 2010, he made $350k and paid 35 percent of his gross in taxes (state and local). Mr. Jones gives contracting work to a dozen or more subcontractors who are in effect his employees. Mr. Jones gives to several charities and is helpful, pleasant and friendly, but he doesn’t have much of a social life. Mr. Jones is saving so that he can buy a new house in Acapulco, where he would like to retire in a few years. He has paid taxes all his adult life, but thinks taxes are much too high and opposes paying more of his money in taxes. His taxes are already going up significantly because of Obamacare. He thinks charitable giving should be voluntary.
Questions. In what moral universe would it be “fair” to take money from Mr. Jones and give it to Mr. Adams?
Which of the two is greedy?
Which of the two is covetous?
Which of the two is doing more to help society?
How does giving more government money to Mr. Adams help him become more productive and useful to society?
Mr. Jones, sick of paying such high taxes and already facing a tax increase because of Obamacare, says he will have to lay off two of his subcontractors if his taxes are raised any more. So, is it a good thing for two people to lose their jobs as Mr. Jones is taxed more?
Is it possible that when we spend our time talking about “fairness” — and think it comes when we take money from some people and give it to others — that we concentrating on the wrong issues?