The first thing we do, let’s kill all the rich

I think envy drives more people to do bad stuff than ambition or greed ever did. And politicians regularly depend on envy to motivate the masses to elect them on the promise that the wealthy are evil and therefore deserving of the pain that they are sure to suffer. Naturally the crookedest of the politicians proclaim loudly that they are just common folks (aam aadmi, chowkidar, etc) who are just like the rest of us, and therefore need not be envied or feared.

I listen skeptically to people who speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I suspect that vices are invented or exaggerated when profit is expected from their punishment. An enemy is a bad witness; a robber is a worse. — Edmund Burke, 1790

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” That’s from Shakespeare’s Henry VI. Talking of Shakespeare, I have to tell you that my favorite bit from the fellow is the exchange between Glendower and Hotspur in Henry IV:

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

Vasty deep. It’s so evocative. I see visions of deep dark oceans with strange creatures never seen on earth dwelling there. And spirits that are powerful and perhaps evil.

Anyway, what I like about that bit is that one can proclaim stuff but that does not mean that it becomes real. Much inflated rhetoric can be seen for what it is by recalling Hotspur’s question.

Yes, you can call the spirits from the vasty deep. But that doesn’t mean that they will oblige.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

8 thoughts on “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the rich”

  1. The error of those on the left is to equate historical richness of dukedom with those of present day successful businessmen. As Mises had carefully noted, that in the past, military conquest decided the fate of an individual’s wealth. And when such wealth was redistributed, there was naturally, unfair and arbitrary allocation.

    The modern businessmen owe their wealth not to any conquest, but in successful deliverance to large number of consumers things that they value. “Corporate dictatorship/tyranny” is a very common slogan these days. And yet the fact remains, that in whatever corporations do, they’re ultimately subject to the sovereignty of consumers. This is often forgotten. Dictators aren’t subjected to any sovereignty. But corporations are fully subject to the sovereignty of the consumer.

    I think it would be strategically and intellectually better if this distinction is repeatedly hinted at instead of repeating that its morally wrong to take money away from the rich. Part of the reason why people don’t think its morally wrong is because they are duped by the sloganeering of the left and this equation of businesses with dictators. They think their wealth has a common source in some kind of conquest. They therefore don’t care at all about the moral argument of taking money away from someone, because they think that the origin of acquisition of this wealth is somewhat shady and has its source is exploitation.

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    1. Agree. I think ultimately people generally misunderstand the nature of wealth and how it is created. If they think wealth is some fixed, pre-existing stuff, then they can easily believe that for fairness sake taking from those who have too much and distributing it to those who have little is justified.

      People need to be told some elemental truths. That is not going to happen, however.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I am not a lefist ; but I don’t believe in any ” sovereignity of the consumer”.There is corporate monopoly in many industrial and infrastructure fields.Looking at the european countries there is “entente commerciale” in all business sectors right from hypermarkets to construction works contracts. In the aviation Industry , you have “choice” between Boeing and Airbus.There are more reasons other than economical for companies chosing one over the other.
      Going to chacha’s days indian businessmen practised corporate monopoly, not inventing anything but manufacturing everything under the sun under licence.Tell me what the present day corporates are doing to boost the green economy, inventing new things and offering jobs other than in ITES

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      1. Karun:

        When I encounter the phrase “I’m not a leftish” followed by the inevitable “but”, I quickly grab my wallet for fear that I will be robbed. What do you mean by “sovereignty of the consumer” which you admittedly don’t believe in? If not the sovereignty of the individual (as consumer invariably is), whose sovereignty do you believe in — the political overlords of a society? the mob? some self-declared master of the universe?

        What do you mean by a “corporate monopoly”? You mean one supplier in the market? Under what circumstances does a monopoly come to be?

        These are important things that need to be understood before one can get on one’s high horse and declare oneself free from the delusion of the “sovereignty of the consumer.”

        Feel free to discuss these matters on this blog.

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    1. @High Tower:

      Abhijit Banerjee, if indeed he’s advising Rahul Gandhi, is wrong about that minimum income thing. If he thinks that it’s a good idea to help the poor by lynching the non-poor (figuratively speaking), he’s not a very good economist (although he is a famous economist.)

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  2. Even though BJP shows socialist tendencies, but its degree of socialism/communism is much lower than most of the parties in India. I consider this as a positive for BJP if it does not change its stance in future.

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    1. It’s only a matter of degree, not of substance. The BJP is not qualitatively different from the other socialist parties of India. That is to be expected. Political parties are a reflection of the general population. If the population is socialistic, it’s unrealistic to expect successful political parties to not be socialistic.

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