A brief thought experiment

Writing yesterday’s piece got me thinking about the dialectical technique from which reductio ad Hitlerum drew its name: reductio ad absurdum.

Not many political assertions stand up well to reductio ad absurdum, but it occurred to me that it might be jolly to pit a few basic positions of (so called) social democracy and free market capitalism against each other through this lens.

The first divide that occurs to me is this (and this probably goes to the heart of most disputes between socialists and capitalists):

Wealth should be redistributed to create a more egalitarian society
People should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their own labour as they see fit

The extremes of each are on the one hand a 100% tax rate with all wealth distributed according government writ, and on the other hand, a completely tax free society in which both the state and the poor were dependent on the generosity of income earners for their upkeep.

I think, unequivocally, that the latter scenario is the more workable. The former scenario would simply be a re-hash of the numerous failed experiments with Marxism. The latter scenario could be considered akin to, say, the Roman Republic. Although somewhat unforgiving and not without certain unpleasant idiosyncrasies, republican Rome was far more functional than any Marxist society has ever been.

I might do more of these as they occur to me. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on any errors I might have made in the above.

Similarly if anyone feels the urge to suggest similar dichotomous positions to subject to reductio ad absurdum (’cause what else does anyone do with their spare time, right?) then that would be welcome.


2 comments on “A brief thought experiment

  1. Sinner says:

    That latter scenario is not only “more workable” – history has demonstrated it is the only effective long-term form of government. Once you have welfare, your society is destroyed.

    • To be fair, welfare isn’t the only use for tax revenue. Even a state with zero welfare might collect tax for other purposes, such as defence. In fact, the Romans’ system of requiring land owners to serve in the military and pay for their own gear was a form of taxation. You could even argue it was progressive.

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