The Tragedy of the Common Good

poverty rich

Redistribution, the distribution of something in a different way, often claimed to be undertaken for the “common good.” This word and definition certainly sounds harmless. The term redistribution is heard mainly in the context of redistribution of wealth, a key point in socialist ideology. The simple explanation is taking wealth from those who have more and giving it to those who have less, typically done through taxes and social programs. Redistribution is not a new idea, it exists in numerous forms, unfortunately none are as benevolent as the definition implies.

A town in South Africa near Johannesburg is trying out a new program, a “test case.” In this test the government will take land from private landowners, without providing any compensation. The land will then be used to build low cost housing for the town’s exploding population. “Expropriation without compensation.“ In the United States, we have a similar practice known as eminent domain, the only difference being that our government provides compensation when it takes private land from individuals. Compensation for losing your home or livelihood.

Imagine how it must feel to those who aren’t given compensation for land on which they have homes or make a living. Much of the land that will be taken in South Africa is farmland. The question of what will happen if the farmers won’t give up the land must be asked. Will the government take it by force? What will this look like?

The idea of redistribution is seen in many ways here in America, taxation and eminent domain are just two practices that people are familiar with. Let’s look at some of the other things the government can “redistribute” from private citizens.

Most Americans are aware of the nearly omnipotent powers of the IRS. If you don’t pay your taxes the IRS can seize your property and redistribute it by way of a tax sale. The truly frightening thing about the IRS is the ability to find deficiencies anywhere.  You can file your taxes one year, pay what you owe, then two years later receive a notice informing you that the return you filed was wrong and you owe an additional amount. When this happens there is very little you can do to change the findings of the IRS, you either find a way to pay, or risk losing your property.

The concept of redistribution doesn’t end there. What happens if someone decides you have too many animals on your property? They could be taken and placed for adoption or killed. If you are suspected of criminal involvement, not necessarily even charged, just suspicion is enough for law enforcement to seize your property under the rule of civil forfeiture. This seized property is often sold or redistributed at auction. Not even your children are safe from seizure and redistribution by the government.

The list of reasons to remove children from the family home is long and the evidence required to do so isn’t always black and white. If you give birth to a baby and that baby tests positive for any drug, including marijuana, the hospital is required by law to report. At that point it is completely up to the local Department of Human Services whether or not they remove the baby from the care of its parents. The child can then be placed with a foster family. Parental rights could even be terminated, and the child adopted.

There was a time, not that long ago when states received federal funding based on the number of children they placed in foster care. Yes, the more children removed from families, the more federal funds received. Fortunately, some truly forward thinking people have been working to change that, the goal, and the funding, now revolves around keeping families together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact the government has the power to “redistribute “ your children.

While the idea of taking from the rich and giving to the poor seems noble and well intentioned, the concept of redistribution is far reaching and frightening. Those favoring the socialist movement would do well to think beyond the idea of caring for the less fortunate to the dark reality of excessive government power. Watch the situation in South Africa. Closer to home, pay close attention to your personal tax returns. Be careful how many pets you own and be very aware of your parenting skills. You never know when you might be the victim of redistribution. No one is immune. We head to the polls soon, vote wisely.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Lance Cayko at 303.775.7406 or email at [email protected]

* Bonnie is a libertarian living in Teller County, Colorado. She’s a passionate about fitness, animal rescue, and an avid outdoor adventurer.

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