I’ve already briefly mentioned a recent quote of President Obama speaking in Quincy, Illinois, but this quote deserves more attention:
We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy. [emphasis mine - CM]
I read that, and I heard the whiny voice of a distressed child crying out, “That’s not fair!” I’m sure you can supply your own mental image of some child who has uttered those words. President Obama, in this unteleprompted comment, is telling the nation that it’s just not fair that someone is making more than “enough money” when there are people who are not.
But try as I may, I can’t find any clause in the Constitution that identifies as the role of the Executive, or even of the federal government, to make sure that life is fair. It simply isn’t his place to tell Americans that they’ve made enough money.
P.J. O’Rouke wrote the following at the end of his book Eat the Rich talking about fairness. At 20 years old, the whole book is still well worth reading. *plug* *plug*
Fairness is a good thing in marriage and at the day-care center. It’s a nice little domestic virtue. But a liking for fairness is not that noble a sentiment. Fairness doesn’t rank with charity, love, duty, or self-sacrifice. And there’s always a tinge of self-seeking in making sure that things are fair. Don’t you go trying to get one up on me.
As a foundation for a political system, fairness my be no virtue at all. The Old Testament is clear on this point. The Bible might seem an odd place to be doing economic research, especially by someone who goes to church about once a year, and only then because that’s when my wife says the Easter Bunny comes. However, I have been thinking — in socioeconomic terms — about the Tenth Commandment.
The first nine Commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, etc. Fair enough. But then comes the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”
Here are God’s basic rules about how we should live, a very brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts, and right at the end of it is, “Don’t envy your buddy’s cow.”
What is that doing in there? Why would God, with just ten things to tell Moses, choose, as one of them, jealousy about the livestock next door? And yet, think about how important to the well-being of a community this Commandment is. If you want a donkey, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don’t bitch about what the people across the street have. Go get your own.
The Tenth Commandment sends a message to socialists, to egalitarians, to people obsessed with fairness, to American presidential candidates in the year 2000 — to everyone who believes that wealth should be redistributed. And the message is clear and concise: Go to hell.
And it applies to our current socialist and egalitarian president who is obviously obsessed with fairness.