The Promise of Redistribution

Someone I know just used the phrase "a penchant for redistribution" to attack a politician whose promise to support vulnerable constituents requires serious (and as-of-yet undelivered) funding. My response, as politely as I can muster:

Redistribution of wealth is an idea based in a language of communal obligation, much closer to biblical notions of society than the savagery of unchecked individual rights. "Redistribution" is another word, a loaded political term, for taxation. A responsible member of society can and should give of their wealth to support the whole. Religion done right teaches that financial success ought to be accompanied by commensurate gratitude, and redistribution should be understood therefore as a sacred, noble obligation. And, speaking from a place of simple recognition of reality, what I have is, at best, temporary. I will likely need the support of my sister one day, and the only way I can known it will be there is if I act with my wealth as I pray she would. This practical wisdom is also known through faith traditions as "the golden rule."

These lessons aren't derived from modern economic theory. They are explicitly taught by Leviticus and the Prophets in their adjurations to build a just society.

In light of the limited political success of some leaders, it is crucial to remember: The absence of a fulfilled commitment doesn't negate the noble value to lift up the downtrodden embodied in the original promise.

Having spent the last few days lobbying on the Hill against the egregious "upward" redistribution of wealth enabled by a failed tax code, my distaste for blaming and insulting the victimized has reached a high point.

The ancient promise of a just society is a command that should ache in our hearts as we gaze upon the effects of our own political indifference. Turning away is the very worst kind of redistribution: a callous misallocation of the human capacity to do the right thing.