Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

There is a whole Wikipedia write-up just on those phrases. It says the phrases are a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.

Unless you knew it was a Marxist slogan, you probably agreed with it. Why would whether Karl Marx said it or not matter? It should not. That is the point of this article.

From each according to the progressive income tax table, to each according to the various safety net laws

In 2010, Sean Hannity went on a jag of reading the slogan to people on the street and asking them if they agreed with it. In general, they did. Then he told them it was Marx, and they were embarrassed and tried to take their approval back.

Here are another couple of phrases:

progressive income tax, safety net

Who said that? Anonymous leftists.

Are you in favor of a progressive income tax? Almost everyone is. If so, you are a Marxist. A progressive income tax takes from each according to his ability to produce income. Kind of inescapable congruity, isn’t it?

Head tax is not according to ability

I oppose a progressive income tax. I favor a head tax, which means every adult pays the same dollar amount per year.

Some favor a so-called flat tax and feel they are being non-Marxists and egalitarian. Nope.

The flat tax taxes everyone at the same marginal tax rate. That would be an improvement over the current system which is sort of progressive squared—but not enough and still Marxist. The flat tax takes from everyone according to their ability to pay.

Progressive squared

By “progressive squared” I refer to the fact that the U.S. income tax uses a percentage, which is progressive, and the percentage rises with the amount of income, which is a second layer of progressiveness.

Plainly, the flat tax is not flat. The word “flat” refers to the graph of the tax due being a flat line. My head tax IS a flat line graph along the whole income spectrum. The flat tax that uses a single percentage for everyone is not a flat line at all. The amount due from each person is a diagonal line that rises as the income level rises. The percent incline in the line is the universal percentage taken from each taxpayer.

Hard core Marxists

I do not want to debate the various types of taxation here. I did that in my article on my head tax. Here, all I want to do is point out that your progressive income tax is Marxist. And not only do you prefer it, you would argue strenuously with me in favor of it. Hard core Marxist.

The problem is you have been brainwashed. You may never have even heard of a head tax. The income tax was always progressive in your world and always would be and any debate of the morality or wisdom of progressive taxation was, like climate change in Al Gore’s mind, long over.

Entitled to the wealth of the better off

Bull. The progressive income tax is unfair, unequal, and detrimental not only to liberty but also to morality and optimal economic opportunity. It gets people into the habit of thinking they are entitled to the wealth of the more successful. They are not under any simple moral code. They are only entitled to that wealth under Marxism.

The recent Occupy movement was big on demanding free medical care, education, housing, etc. For them to demand free this and that, and call themselves the 99%, means they feel entitled to have their needs paid for by the wealth-generating ability of the 1%. This is Robin Hood. He was fictional. But it is quite clear that he was a violent thief. He robbed people at knife, sword, or arrow point. “Your money or your life.” He “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor”. In addition to being a felon, he was a Marxist, before Marx.

The progressive income tax robs from the rich and gives to the poor—actually to likely Democrat voters—but it is not called robbing because it is done “under color of law.”

To each according to his need

Marx said when the world became Communist, there would be enough wealth to take care of every needy person’s needs.

Ha! What an idiot! It is now well known that needs expand to claim all the wealth in the universe and then some. Europe is about to go bankrupt trying to operate cradle-to-grave welfare states. And the U.S. is only a couple of years behind them on that road.

It is well known that what you tax you get less of and what you subsidize you get more of.

Thus, the Marxist plan of taking from each according to his ability and giving to each according to his need is a plan to tax profits and work and subsidize all possible needs. And, right according to the less-of-more-of principle, we have gotten less business profits and wages, and thereby less tax revenues at all levels of government around the U.S.

We subsidize sickness, injury, disability, unemployment, education, retirement, poverty—and as a result, we have gotten more of each with no end in sight to the growth of those needs.

Similarly, as the Democrat party and its union allies have identified ever more rights entitling them to confiscate the wealth of business and “the rich,” we have subsidized all those needs including education, retirement, health care, family leave, poverty, and so on, all of those needs have grown exponentially. And now, the related entitlement programs—Social Security, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, government employee pensions and health care, have grown like cancer tumors and are now bankrupting venerable corporations like GM, Chrysler, and many airlines and cities like Vallejo, CA, and, soon, the U.S. government.

I would expand the more-of-less-of principle to say:

What you tax or regulate, you get less of. What you subsidize or mandate, you get more of.

Too many laws and regulations

Almost everyone roughly believes in the progressive income tax and that we need “some” government regulations and laws regulating business. In fact, we need a head tax and the government should have nothing to do with regulating business other than

• centuries old laws against fraud and theft and so on
• things that cross borders—air, water, germs, migratory animals

The only regulation of business should be what we had the sorts of rules—rules against fraud and theft and so on that apply no to businesses alone but to everyone including individuals—we had in the 1800s minus the various laws that regulated business for the purpose of preventing competition against cronies of the powerful. We are now getting 80,000 pages a year of new regulations, mostly on businesses. You either comply with each and every one of them, or you pay a businessman to comply with them.

Things that cross borders

High levels of government must regulate things that cross borders. States must have jurisdiction over their counties for the purpose of deterring and punishing across-border misbehavior, like a factory on the east side of a county spewing out air-pollution that blows onto the adjacent county. The counties cannot handle such things because they have equal power relative to each other. With regard to cross border issues where everyone’s interest is probably congruent, the higher level of government is still needed to coordinate efforts of the various smaller governments, like preventing the spread of disease.

Similarly, the federal government must deal with problems that cross state or international borders.

Marxism does not work, that’s why they have to disguise it

Marxism does not work. That’s why you claim to be against it when in fact you are in favor of it. You know that Marxism is bad but that when it is given a new name and new spin, you are brainwashed to believe it is the only way to go.

In fact, the U.S. economy is stuck now in probably a permanent stagnation and the U.S. government is about to go bankrupt and almost certainly destroy the dollar in the process. This is because of our Marxist policies and laws. They really don’t work. Our stagnation and impending federal bankruptcy are yet more evidence—not that any more should have been needed—that Marxism does not work and is always disastrous.

Whether you call it Marxism or progressive income tax and safety net is not mere semantics. If Americans can be easily tricked into embracing Marxist laws by simply giving Marxist principles new names and new spin, we are in big trouble. And, indeed, as I have demonstrated in this article, Americans can, and have been easily tricked into embracing suicidal Marxism by simply changing its wording slightly. The progressive income tax safety net spin on Marxism is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is more like a wolf wearing lipstick.

The safety net is charity. But there must be separation of charity and state. If you let the government get into the charity business at all, you will bankrupt the government because the elected officials will give away taxpayers money and promise to give away even more to buy votes. They are, by definition, incapable of telling a voter no. The voters thereby turn into spoiled children who have parents incapable of ever saying no to them.

The same is true of health care, education, pensions, disability compensation and so on. The government must not get involved in any of it because they will all turn into bottomless-pit charities.

Those who want the various safety nets should reach their hand into their pocket and take out some of their money and give it to the appropriate private charity. This is the way Americans took care of such things before the Great Depression. Letting Democrats put their hand into Republican pockets to buy votes, on the pretext of funding the “safety net,” is insane. As the Supreme Court Justice John Marshall said McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 327, “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” Democrats are using the government’s power to tax and regulate to destroy Republican voters in order to buy off Democrat voters. It is national suicide to let any party use government power do that to other parties.

Too ignorant about economics

The problem is Americans are simply ignorant about economics and human nature and incentives. Adam Smith was right; Marx, wrong. And the American people are simply unaware of that fact. Unfortunately, it is probably about the most important fact that they should have become aware of somewhere between age 12 and age 22. But Marxists infiltrated and took over our schools from K-12 to college and grad schools and performed the needed brainwashing. I avoided it for the most part by going to West Point and Harvard Business School. (Although I must note that the U.S. military is the closest thing America has to the Soviet union with its lack of free speech, central planning, and cradle-to-grave housing/job/health care/pension socialism. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said the U.S. military was the only place on earth where Soviet style central planning was still the modus operandi.)

They are about to, belatedly, get taught that lesson, by watching the U.S. economy and fiscal situation crash around them. Learning from reading and class discussion would have been preferable, but that was not the way it went so we will now learn it the hard way—the very, very hard way.

One reader says just favoring a progressive income tax does not make you a Marxist because the definition of Marxism is broader. He offered this:

Merriam Webster defines Marxism as:
"the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially: a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society"

1. I do not see much distinction between the progressive income tax/safety net and the definition of Marxism—much of it including socialism, class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat are essentially the same as progressive income tax/safety net principles.

2. The progressive income tax is profoundly, fundamentally based on the notion that the bottom 50% in terms of financial success, by moral and legal right, own part of the wealth of the top 50%. I would not even agree that favoring a progressive income tax but not some other aspect of the full definition of Marxism lets you call yourself Marxist lite. The progressive income tax and safety net are part and parcel of every aspect of any reasonable definition of Marxism.

I think most people’s innocent-of-Marxism plea in spite of favoring a progressive income tax and safety net is simply a manifestation of cognitive dissonance, not any real daylight between progressive income tax/safety net and Marxism as it was worded a century ago. About the only difference I can see is the current Marxists avoid words associated with old Marxism solely for the reason of hiding who they really are. Progressive income tax and safety net are not Marxism only if failure to carry red flags in May Day parades disqualify you.

In short, I stand by my story. People don’t want to be called Marxists because Marxists are considered to be kooks and foreign in America today. But Marxism has a definition. “From each…” is probably the best definition. Nit picking over whether favoring a progressive income tax is dialectical materialism and not Marxism if it is not, is unpersuasive to me.

Saying my calling anyone who “disagrees” with me on the progressive income tax a Marxist also is beside the point. The issue is not disagreeing with me. The problem for the progressive income tax/safety net folks is that Marxism has a definition. I am well aware that the progressive income tax/safety net crowd swear they are not Marxists, but I will bet you that Marx would have said he is a fan of the progressive income tax and safety net principles.

There is also no question that progressive income tax and safety net match the “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” formula. And there is no question that the current liberals and even conservatives who favor the progressive income tax/safety net will not be using the succinct and simple and popular “From each…” phrase any time soon because they are quite embarrassed by the similarity.

John T. Reed