"That's not fair," is the plaintive cry of every toddler ever born, though my own son quickly memorized my constant response: "Not getting your way isn't the same as 'unfair.'" I may need five minutes alone with the American public, however, since many of my countrymen apparently think it's "unfair" that other people have more money than them — and they want the government to give them some of what the other guy has.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say wealth is distributed unfairly in the United States, and a majority want the federal government to play Robin Hood to fix the problem, according to a poll released Thursday.
Only 33 percent of Americans think the current distribution of wealth in this country is fair, according to the Gallup Poll, while 59 percent say it is not. Fifty-two percent said the United States should redistribute wealth through heavy taxes on the rich, while 45 percent disagreed.
While the percent of Americans who said the current distribution of wealth is unfair is down from 68 percent in 2008, the number of Americans who favor federal redistribution is at an all-time high.
For what it's worth, at 59 percent, the number of Americans insisting that the distribution of wealth is unfair is far from a high, and closer to the low end of recorded opinion on the matter. According to Gallup's Frank Newport:
The range in the percentage saying wealth should be "more evenly distributed" has been relatively narrow over time, from a low of 56% in 2000 to a high of 68% in April 2008.
But if the propotion of Americans screaming "unfair" is relatively low, compared to where it has been, the percentage demanding redistributionist taxes has crept up. Says Newport, "Responses to this question have varied within a fairly small range since Gallup began to ask it in 1998, from a low of 45% favoring tax-based redistribution that year to today's 52%, which by one percentage point is the highest measured."
That's not a huge surge in support for swiping other people's stuff, but it is a move in the wrong direction for anybody who values a free and dynamic society in which people who innovate and work hard get to enjoy the fruit of their labors. Then again, if the United States becomes a country that punishes success, and so drives the ambitious elsewhere, or underground, perhaps the resulting leveling downward will be perceived as more ... fair.
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