I call it the Dumbo Syndrome. Remember in the classic Disney film, how the little elephant is convinced that his power to fly comes from a magical feather? Many Americans today suffer from the same syndrome. They believe that society can prosper only with the help of a big, intrusive government.

The latest example of this disease is an open letter published earlier this summer by a group of the “richest 1/10th of the richest 1% of Americans.” Their plea? Tax us more.

The thesis of the letter, signed by well-known well-to-do such as Abigail Disney and George Soros, is found in the second paragraph:

“America has a moral ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more. A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic.”

What should we make of this?

For starters, we should recognize the good in it. Generosity is virtuous, no matter how much the giver has. It is noble for the wealthy to be concerned about those less fortunate. We should be glad that they care about some of the nation’s pressing social, economic and environmental problems.

That said, one need not look very far to see that their argument for a wealth tax is a sure sign of the Dumbo Syndrome. Wealthy citizens don’t need the IRS to accomplish their lofty goals. They are free to invest in efforts to meet each and every one of the challenges they name. Many wealthy people already do this.

America gains nothing by using the coercive power of government to funnel money from willing private hands to worthy causes. On the other hand, much is lost through this approach.

Charity ceases to be charity when it becomes a legal mandate. Would-be “givers” lose the chance to develop the virtue of generosity; they become mere doers of a legal duty. Those who receive wealth that they did not earn develop an attitude of entitlement in place of gratitude. After all, the money and services they receive came from Uncle Sam and not, as far as they know, from the hard-working family down the street.

Government’s efforts to improve society by redistributing wealth also tends to be less effective, efficient, and innovative than private programs. For instance, one study found that after six months, just over half of those trained under the publicly-funded Workforce Investment Act had found jobs. A similar, private program called Cincinnati Works boasted job placement for 84% of those it served. The private program focused on teaching the kind of habits and attitudes that bring success in the workplace.

And that is only one example. Just imagine the good that these uber-rich letter-signers could do for the causes they care about if they sought out the best, most effective programs, and then funneled their billions into them.

The letter states, “Those of us signing this letter enjoy uncommon fortunes, but each of us wants to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future.” The question is, who or what is the “America” of which they speak?

The context of the letter reveals that to these writers, “America” is the federal government. And this is a great poverty of thinking.

The best (and historically correct) view is that our government is but a small portion of what makes America both great and good. It is a sort of contractor, to which we have delegated certain functions that we really need it to do. But it is not, and could never be, a worthy substitute for our families, churches, philanthropies, or businesses.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” When we reach a point at which citizens see themselves as dependents who wait for and expect government to do what needs doing, we are no longer operating as a healthy free society.

This please-tax-us-so-we-can-help letter is a sad appeal for government to do what the ultra-rich are more than capable of doing themselves. In the classic tale, Dumbo eventually loses the “magical” feather and finds that he can fly just fine without it. If we drop the idea that government is our only means of making society better for everyone, we, too, will find that we can “fly” just fine on our own.

Rita Dunaway lives in Harrisonburg. Her column appears on thestream.org.

(9) comments

Whalebroc

This gang of progressives led by the socialist George Soros, will contribute a hundred million or two and us common folks should turn over thousands to support their further takeover of the gov’t? What can possibly go wrong?

It’s amazing how these leftists always want to cut out the “middle man” (or woman)....except when it comes to the gov’t. This gang installs more of their puppets than already there, ' then have total control of the country.

The Cabal always has a boogeyman or two to chase, see Global Warming, Racism, Guns, the wealthy (except these virtuesignallers that you have to leave alone because they care for you ,derp). Don’t look behind the curtain and see the frauds pulling all the strings .

And the dishonest, inane, manipulative media goes right along ....whatever happened to honest journalism (at least the appearance of it)?

hbdansby

Rita, how would you propose to address climate change without government action?

R B Tate

Hopefully she has seasonal clothing and foul weather gear in her closet. And of course pay the electrical and gas bills.

prodigalson

Great post R B.

prodigalson

There is no need to address "climate change" Mr. Dansby. The climate has changed naturally for thousands of years, and will continue to do so. It's called seasons. The "man made climate change" narrative that you and your fellow adherents promote is mere religious fantasy. It's a hoax.

hbdansby

From https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/



Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.



AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES



Statement on Climate Change from 18 Scientific Associations

"Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver." (2009)


American Association for the Advancement of Science 
"The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society." (2006)


American Chemical Society 
"Comprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem." (2004)


American Geophysical Union 
"Human‐induced climate change requires urgent action. Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years. Rapid societal responses can significantly lessen negative outcomes." (Adopted 2003, revised and reaffirmed 2007, 2012, 2013)


American Medical Association 
"Our AMA ... supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report and concurs with the scientific consensus that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that anthropogenic contributions are significant." (2013)


American Meteorological Society 
"It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide." (2012)

American Physical Society 
"The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now." (2007)

The Geological Society of America 
"The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse‐gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s." (2006; revised 2010)



SCIENCE ACADEMIES



International Academies: Joint Statement

"Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001)." (2005, international science academies)


U.S. National Academy of Sciences 
"The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify taking steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere." (2005)


U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES


U.S. Global Change Research Program 
"The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases. Human 'fingerprints' also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice." (2009, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies)


INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODIES


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”



“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”


OTHER RESOURCES



List of Worldwide Scientific Organizations

The following page lists the nearly 200 worldwide scientific organizations that hold the position that climate change has been caused by human action.

http://www.opr.ca.gov/facts/list-of-scientific-organizations.html



U.S. Agencies

The following page contains information on what federal agencies are doing to adapt to climate change.

https://www.c2es.org/site/assets/uploads/2012/02/climate-change-adaptation-what-federal-agencies-are-doing.pdf








LVW

Bah. A logical extension of the point made in this letter is that nobody should be taxed anything, since it would be better and more efficient if we relied on charity and private donations for everything. And we all know that would not work. It would be better to focus on those things that the federal government should not be doing, rather than replacing a Disney character with a wingnut fairy tale.

prodigalson

Well LVW, if you're going to go down that slippery slope, I suppose a logical extension of your liberal philosophy would be that we should have 100% tax rates across the board. And of course, we all know that that won't work either.I don't know anyone who doesn't realize that some level of taxation is required in order to maintain a functioning society. The real question is how much authority and power we are willing to cede to a centralized government. Anyone, at any time, may make a donation of funds to the U.S. Treasury if they believe that they are being taxed too little. the fact the these aforementioned signers haven't done that, but instead, craft a letter urging the federal government to tax the rest of us at higher rates, shows their hypocrisy.

prodigalson

Excellent column, as usual, Rita. I will take exception with one of your points, however. You begin by "acknowledging the good" in the letter crafted by the ultra rich folks who wish to be taxed more. There is nothing good about this letter. It amounts to nothing more than virtue signaling. The people who signed this letter are very well aware that in order for them to have a positive impact on the causes they claim to care about, they could simply donate to those causes, without fanfare, without publicity. Instead, they chose to craft a letter, encouraging the confiscation of even more of the hard earned dollars of others, so that more control can be put into the hands of centralized government, which is, after all, their real agenda. Don't be fooled by these folks. They are noting more than condescending, arrogant, entitled liberals, attempting to make the government bigger in order to achieve their own selfish ends.

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