“The Vice of Republics”

In a republican society, seemingly large fortunes make easy targets. While the hard work, risk-taking, and discipline required to create them often go unnoticed, the fortunes themselves provoke great interest. Estate homes offer tours to middle-class travelers; magazines feature glowing articles and glossy photographs extolling the priceless possessions, lavish parties, and rare license of the privileged class; a popular television series glorified the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It requires no gift of uncommon insight to grasp how such exaltation would provoke resentment among the less privileged. Regrettably, rarer is the recognition that such resentment is evil, corrosive to the individual whose character is marred by it, and not the sort of thing that public policy should reward.

Owing to this lack of understanding, progressive taxation has grown throughout the past century fed by such envy, which the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called “the vice of republics”. Demagogues turn the law, which should protect the virtuous, into a tool for rewarding evil. To do so is to use the law to undermine its own purpose. Law is rightly an instrument of justice. Because the law is a teacher, using it to take from some simply because they have more than others inevitably sanctions this injustice. Such injustice has natural moral consequences.

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