Kal ZoneBlog

No, it's not "class warfare"

December 17, 2010

But when the issue is merely restoring tax structures to what they were a decade ago — raising the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 40%, let's say — the wealthy would most likely survive. To call this "class warfare" is just demagoguery.

To put this in perspective, let me give you an example of what might actually be considered class warfare.

Before World War II, my maternal grandparents owned and lived on a farm in Estonia. When the Soviets took power after the war, private land was seized and the owners were declared to be enemies of the people. My grandparents disappeared. They were presumably arrested and deported to Siberia.

I think this could be called "class warfare," in the sense that people were not only dispossessed and displaced, but their actual survival was at stake. Even so, to accept the term "class warfare" here, you have to buy the notion that the Soviet state represented the "people" and the landowners represented the "ruling class".

Enough already with the "class warfare" rhetoric. The U.S. government is "of the people, by the people," much more legitimately than a Soviet puppet government in Estonia in 1946.

There is no aristocracy in this country. This is a nation of immigrants — except, of course, for indigenous Native Americans, many of whom were driven off their land by actual warfare, waged on them by "we, the people." (We're not perfect either.)

In this country, titles of ownership can be traced back at most a handful of generations. No one here has a divine right to what they own. If anything, property titles are sanctioned by law, i.e., by the government. Without government protection, property owners would be in the same situation as the original Native Americans, having to defend themselves against any powerful intruder who happened to come along.

There is a conservative notion that taxation is theft, that government exists only to steal from individuals. Actually the opposite is true. In this country, the government ("we, the people") is extremely protective of property rights. There are other parts of the world where governments have failed and people are left to fend for themselves. You wouldn't want to live there, no matter how heavily armed you might be.

So can we please stop comparing simple taxation to class warfare? No law-abiding property owners are being driven off their lands, or being arrested, or physically threatened. And no, it's not just a matter of degree, with taxation at one end of the scale and complete dispossession at the other. The government provides plenty of protection for people and property — as well as providing infrastructure and essential services — and these services have to be financed somehow. Without them your property rights would be far more vulnerable.

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