Should the police get to keep the loot of a bandit who robbed me?

Let’s imagine the following event: You are walking down the street with your purse on your arm or, if you are a man, you have your wallet in your hand–say you left a note in it and you needed to read it to remind yourself what it said.

Fill in your own details.

So there you are minding your own business and not minding anyone else’s, or aware of much else.

Suddenly a hand reaches out and grabs your purse/wallet. You look up to see a man running away with your money. You yell in panic…

…and hear the gratifying reply of a police whistle!

One of the city’s finest races past you and overtakes the robber. Within seconds the robber is lying prone on the ground handcuffed. The cop has retrieved your wallet. He turns and doffs his hat to you. “No need to thank me. Just doing my job.”

Then he puts your wallet in his pocket and walks away.

I think of this scenario often. For example, when I heard this in an interview:

I would like to see capitalism in America prevail, but capitalism with a human face. And not a capitalism in which some speculators in the financial world nowadays make 325 times more money than the average wage of an average American. And we have created an extremely unfair capitalistic system. These things have to be addressed…

Beyond that we do have this wave of increasing — mindlessly increasing executive compensation irrespective of executive performance. I think both more regulation and a fairer tax system would go a long, long way in addressing these problems. And actually Romney is beginning to talk about that, in part because I think he realizes that the amount of wealth he himself has should not be affected by one of the lowest tax levels that you can have when it comes to income.

via Zbigniew Brzezinski: “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power” | The Diane Rehm Show from WAMU and NPR.

I’m completely open to the possibility that executive compensation is the result of a misallocation of resources. I would love to see an investigation that searched out the causes what is happening and proved the case.

But the idea that the “crime” (if it be one or should be one) of taking away money out of the economy should be addressed by confiscating that money to give to politicians calls out for the proverb, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

If people are draining the economy we need to fix it. Pretending that hiking up the tax code on such people really addresses the issue just replaces one parasite with two.

On what grounds of justice can anyone claim that an “unfair” income on the part of one person or corporation is fixed when matched by distributing that income to another person or corporation? And the US Federal Government is only different from a normal corporation in that it is permitted to use guns in its operations.

Of course, I doubt the “injustice” of CEO pay is as egregious as that of the robber in my story. That is why it is all the more unjust for the state to match one questionable injustice by committing an undoubted one of its own.

In fact, this idea is doubly perverse since the state would be gaining revenue from an injustice and would have even less incentive to fix the problem.

Fix it; don’t just add real robbery to possible robbery.

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