Paul Graham’s latest published essay, Inequality and Risk provides plenty of insight into the thinking of a wealthy man who doesn’t want to be taxed. Tim Bray rightly points out several flaws in Graham’s writing, including a straw man, and the assumption that human behaviour can be accurately predicted with a simple mathematical equation.
Bray then goes on to deal with the heart of this essay: whether any redistribution of wealth is ever justified. Graham says the main reason for wanting to do something about inequality is a “dislike” of “the sort of wealth that becomes self-perpetuating through an alliance with power.” Wrong. The main argument against inequality is not power-envy. the main argument against inequality is not even wealth-envy. The main argument is that children are going hungry, that people are dying of diseases that can be treated with twenty dollars worth of medicine, that there are suburbs full of people who’s only hope for a better life is to start dealing drugs.
Perhaps I am being too harsh. In the openning paragraphs of his essay, Graham points out the economic benefits of taking money from the wealthy and using it to provide educational opportunities to those who would not have had them otherwise. However, the remainder of this essay is a hymn to the individual’s right of material aquisition over all else. You are a better person than this, Paul.