The Fairness Doctrine in These Taxing Times

April 16, 2010

Think the current administration’s redistributionist tax plans—its desire to “spread the wealth around”—are fair?  The way I see it, they’re profoundly unfair.  

Real fairness does not mean bringing the top down.  It means giving the bottom a fighting chance to rise.  This is an argument some of us in the free enterprise movement have made with insufficient force.  Instead, we too easily cede the fairness argument to the other side and busily set about showing how entrepreneurship and markets are more, well…efficient.  (Inspiring stuff indeed.)  This is a mistake.  It reduces free enterprise to a mechanistic system of production—and ignores its ability to provide individual Americans the opportunity to earn their own success.  We should always avoid the temptation to argue “My efficiency can beat your fairness.”  That’s a losing proposition. We must show that fairness is not the trump card of the redistributionists, but their Achilles’ heel.    

In my forthcoming book, The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, http://www.aei.org/book/100036, I define fairness this way: “a system that rewards hard work, merit, excellence, and  the honest makers in society.”  And as I point out in my April 14 Wall Street Journal op-ed http://www.aei.org/article/101913, these are not just my views.  They’re the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans, who rarely get these things wrong.