Humanism and Wealth

July 12, 2012

There’s been a lot of talk in the secular blogosphere recently about sex and gender issues. This is an important set of topics, but just for a change of pace, I thought I would bring up another subject that can rev up our engines, namely money.

I thought of this topic the other day when I listened to Mitt Romney talk about how Obama wanted to tax “job creators.” Romney and many Republicans studiously avoid using words like “rich” or “wealthy,” and since Romney has at least half a brain, it’s not because he actually believes wealthy people are necessarily individuals who create employment opportunities. He avoids using these terms because he recognizes that there is some resentment, mixed with envy, toward the rich—a class of which he is indisputably a member.

The resentment toward the wealthy is unlike the animosity felt toward other classes, for example, racial minorities, LGBT individuals, atheists and so forth. Yes, there is antipathy toward the wealthy; however, hardly anyone would pass up the opportunity to join the ranks of the wealthy. And who doesn’t like to have a wealthy friend?

This ambivalence toward wealth is shared by some humanists, and this ambivalence can manifest itself when representatives of secular groups court donors. It’s no secret that almost all secular organizations rely heavily on donations, and although all donations are welcome, a check for $10,000, $50,000, or more will receive a very warm greeting, indeed. Nonetheless, once upon a time I was visiting the home of a wealthy individual along with some (non-CFI) acquaintances. Without getting into unnecessary details, let’s just say this individual’s house was enormously spacious and spectacularly beautiful. The visit was quite pleasant: much friendly discussion, much graciousness from our host. Upon taking leave, another member of the party whispered to me, “This person’s wealth is obscene.” Hmmm, I thought. Would you care to share that sentiment with our host?

OK, let’s acknowledge that the wealth of others can inspire some irrational, emotional reactions, and move on to consider what a rational position toward wealth and the wealthy would look like. I’ll proceed by first removing from contention some ill-advised policy choices.

Aim for Complete Egalitarianism.
Two questions: How? Why? If we confiscated everyone’s assets, redistributed them, and gave every adult equal shares of these assets, we would need another round of redistribution within 24 hours if we wanted to maintain rigid equality. Either that or give absolute power to some Khmer Rouge-style government. Any economy above subsistence level will eventually produce income inequality.

Moreover, there’s no intrinsic value to either equality of income or equality of wealth. Everyone should have the same civil rights and fundamental liberties, but financial resources have only an indirect connection to such rights and liberties. (This connection will be discussed further below.)

Aim to Reduce Drastically Income/Wealth Inequality.
Again: How? Why? We could have an income tax that is very steeply progressive, combined with some sort of tax on accumulated wealth, and we probably could implement these measures short of establishing a totalitarian regime, but would this be beneficial?

Most people are motivated to work harder and to take risks pursuing some innovation by the prospect of rewards. The reward does not necessarily have to be financial—simple recognition of one’s accomplishments can be very satisfying—but financial rewards are important for many. One doesn’t have to buy into flat-tax rhetoric (which I find absurd) to realize that too high a tax rate will work as a disincentive to many, and we would all suffer as a result. At least in the developed countries, our absolute standard of living has increased tremendously in the last century, and at least part of that increase is attributable to improvements in technology and services—improvements which made a number of innovative people very wealthy.

Moreover, just as there’s no intrinsic merit in absolute equality in income or wealth, there’s no intrinsic merit in a drastic reduction in disparities in income and wealth. My dignity as an individual is not affected by the fact that some others have 50, 500, or even 5000 times my assets.

Aim to Reduce the Political Power of the Wealthy.
Now we’re getting somewhere. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, it does me no injury if my neighbor has one house or twenty houses; it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. On the other hand, it can do me injury if my neighbor uses her financial muscle to sway an election and make my vote meaningless.

Furthermore, it’s not just a question of affecting the choice between two or three candidates. The influence of the wealthy can (and does) extend to determining which candidates stand a ghost of a chance of being nominated. It takes a ton of cash to become a viable candidate for Congress, let alone for president. One can’t usually raise this money without the assistance of wealthy individuals.

Or, nowadays, corporations. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC exacerbated the disproportionate influence of moneyed interests by holding that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations. This novel extension of unqualified free speech rights to entities that are not natural persons (can a corporation serve in the military?) makes little sense legally and threatens to further distort our political process. As Justice Stevens recognized in his dissenting opinion, corporations have long been considered to have “distinctive corrupting potential.”

In short, wealth, whether held by individuals or artificial aggregates such as corporations, can have harmful effects on our political process and, therefore, can undermine the standing of the non-wealthy (most of us) as members of the political community.

I am not going to propose any specific legislative (or constitutional) solution here, but I do believe measures must be adopted to limit the political clout of the wealthy.

The way I interpret humanism, it has no problem with wealth per se, or with significant disparities in income and wealth. Humanism does commit one to support democracy and equal rights for all, however. Failure to curb the influence of money on our political process could turn us into an oligarchy in all but name and devalue the rights of the majority.

As always, unless noted otherwise, the views expressed in my blog posts are my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the official position of CFI.

Comments:

#1 Matt (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 5:21am

Wealth does not intrinsically violate humanistic principles, but the desire for greater wealth in many cases leads people to violate those principles.  It is the same principle that lead to the saying ‘Power TENDS to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.’  It is in animal nature and by extension, human nature, to try to possess more and more, whether that more and more is food or money.

So the issue is that the possessors of great wealth try to achieve greater wealth, leading to them instituting conditions and policies that result in them accumulating more wealth.  This occasionally occurs as a result of true technological innovation, but far more frequently results in EITHER their employees (or an equivalent group) being paid less, or at least being paid less than they deserve considering their input to that persons increase in wealth, OR some false innovation that solely relies on either lack of knowledge about the dodginess of the product or the gullibility of the general populace.  If those people who earned ridiculous sums of money were prepared to pay a decent days wage for a decent days work or cared about the effect that their false innovations would have on the general populace (sometimes even worldwide), you can be certain that the wealth disparity would not be as great as it is today.

Oh and on a final note.  The possession of 1 house or 20 houses can have an effect.  As seen on the rising house prices that prevent even people on a decent wage being able to afford the deposit on a modest home.

#2 Danny Handelman (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 5:40am

There should be a shift in emphasis from income and sales tax toward land value taxation (rather than the combination of land and building), Tobin tax (financial transaction tax) and resources (such as carbon tax). Taxes on speculation will result in a more equitable wealth distribution, as it will increase the supply of healthy food (due to highly processed food requiring extensive transportation no longer being price-competitive with locally grown unprocessed food) and shelter (more efficient use of land in sought after areas), reducing wealthy inequlity.

#3 Jason Loxton (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:06am

This is an odd rumination. I agree with most of it, but am struck (as a humanist) by the absences. There may be no intrinsic merit in reducing wealth inequality, but the unequal distribution of wealth/in practice taxation policies in the US system lead to a number of conditions that are of profound interest to humanists, e.g., unnecessary suffering/pain/death as a result of lack of access to healthcare, likelihood of facing bankruptcy as a result of a chance events (accident, cancer, etc.), decreased access to education, basic quality of life, etc. To avoid speaking of these *effects* of lack of wealth in a discourse on wealth inequality is odd.

It may not be intrinsically wrong to have a society where six individuals own more than the bottom 30% (e.g., the Wal-Mart heirs), but when that lopsided concentration exists in a society where that bottom 30% suffer as a result of lack of wealth, and lack basic necessities, I would argue humanists ought to be concerned.

#4 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 9:10am

I’ll point out the obvious counterexample. After WWII, America’s growth boom occurred with much more progressive tax rates than today.

I guess this is just another sign that CFI has indeed moved beyond secular humanism.

#5 JakeR (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 11:24am

Option 2 is not so much a stretch as in, e.g., Sweden, which produced both Ingmar Bergman and ABBA. Not doing it _leads_ to problems such as Citizens United. Political scientists have documented gross economic inequality as a major source of rebellions, such as we see today in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. The US is number one in income inequality among developed nations, leading even UK, which today actually has greater social mobility than we, and France.

#6 Randy on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 12:05pm

“it does me no injury if my neighbor has one house or twenty houses; it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Of course, this is not true.  If your neighbor has twenty houses to your one, he is going to need that much more staff to maintain them.  He’ll want the best people, and can pay more than you (picks your pocket).  People who might not even normally be interested in running a house may be hired to do it.  Of course their absence from other markets, perhaps first aid, affects you (breaks your leg).

#7 Daniel Loxton (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 1:14pm

Humanism has one central heartbeat that makes it a living thing worthy of support: altruism. Joe Nickell describes humanism as “atheism with a heart”—my own elevator pitch defines humanists as people who don’t believe in god, but do believe in goodness. (Without altruism as the unifying core principle, why bother having something called “humanism”? We could just call it “atheism” or “rationalism” and be done with it.)

With that as the starting point, wealth in itself may not be a concern for humanism—but poverty emphatically must be. Not merely as an abstract, but at the level of individual wellbeing and dignity. It may be the case that “My dignity as an individual is not affected by the fact that some others have 50, 500, or even 5000 times my assets,” but this assumes that the speaker is already wealthy in absolute terms—reliably able to meet the needs of wellbeing and dignity for himself and his dependents—and is merely less wealthy in relative terms.

We know this isn’t the case for the billions of people globally and millions in North America who are unable to reliably meet their needs. Desperate people with fewer choices suffer more erosion to their dignity. When a person enters the sex trade to buy a family member’s way into a hospital or buy new seeds for next year’s subsistence crop; resolves himself to the fact that higher education is forever out of reach; neglects her family because she must work so hard to keep a roof over their heads; or watching her loved ones whither and starve—then that person, like billions of other poverty-stricken human beings, has suffered a severe and deplorable loss of human dignity.

Wealth isn’t “obscene” because the wealthy have too much, but because so many suffering human beings have too little to meet their needs. That ought, in my opinion, to be a deeply central concern for humanists—perhaps the central concern. (Certainly poverty ought to much more central a concern for humanists, for example, than worrying about whether other people happen to hold differing untestable metaphysical opinions. After all, think of the scorn many non-theists feel when considering missionaries who approach those who need bread and medicine, and instead worry inexplicably about their souls.)

#8 Craig (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 1:56pm

Calling someone’s wealth obscene is the actual obscenity. Wealth can’t be obscene. Petty jealousy is nothing to be proud of.

On the subject of political influence, people and virtual people should of course have complete freedom of speech. While there’s an argument that says it should be accompanied by absolute transparency, I am more persuaded by the argument that political donations should, by law, be anonymous.

So you’d be able to donate as much as you or your Big Evil Corporation wants to the candidate of your choice, but that candidate would have no way of knowing who gave him the money.

I think that would be an elegant fix.

#9 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 3:00pm

Wait, wait, I got it.

Ron’s either writing a Poe, or else this is a way of proving CFI’s “diversity,” even regarding money, and insulating itself from the next #skeptatheistchick controversy.

And, @Craig ... “petty jealousy.” Yep, that’s why class warfare is usually actually started by the rich, who then pretend they’ve done no such thing.

@Jake ... hell, MEXICO has less income inequality than the U.S. Yes, you read that right.

@ Matt gets it right, otherwise, in part related to that. Money, in such cases, is ultimately about power.

@Randy starts on the right path. But we can take it further. The rich, to be able to get ever more of the types of possessions they want to fill or adorn their mansions, leverage the tax code yet more to support things like this.

And, I can get snarkier yet.

#10 Ben Lynema (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 4:59pm

I think there is a way to determine whether or not somone possesses an “obscene” amount of wealth. It’s imple to deduce whether or not someone has more wealth than they could possibly ever spend. Wouldn’t untapped resources be considered obscene and even irrational?

Working blue collar, I know lot’s of people who feel they could make it on a couple hundred grand, maybe less. And when you have a hard time reaching even that plateau, compared to those with insanely more, you have a problem.

#11 Darren McKee (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:29pm

Given that some people are in extreme suffering and other people who have various religious beliefs are acting to help them (and don’t have (m)any related beliefs that harm them), aligning with such important works seems to be a far better usage of our time.

True, fight faith-based bigotry… but people are literally starving to death. I think we should focus more on that.

#12 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:35pm

An in-depth deconstruction of Ron Lindsay:

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#13 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:36pm

OK, trying this again because of CFI’s stupid no HTML policy for “guests”

An in-depth deconstruction of Ron Lindsay:

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#14 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:37pm

OK a THIRD TIME due to CFI’s stupid no HTML:

An in-depth deconstruction of Ron Lindsay:

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#15 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Thursday July 12, 2012 at 6:38pm

OK a FOURTH TIME due to CFI’s stupid no HTML:

An in-depth deconstruction of Ron Lindsay (and if this one doesn’t work just Google for the blog SocraticGadfly):

socraticgadfly DOT blogspot DOT com/2012/07/gnuatheist-fail-being-obscenely-rich-is DOT h t m l

#16 tpobserver on Friday July 13, 2012 at 3:55am

I found much to disagree with in this article. For instance, you say “there’s no intrinsic merit in a drastic reduction in disparities in income and wealth. My dignity as an individual is not affected by the fact that some others have 50, 500, or even 5000 times my assets.” Your dignity as an “individual” may not be affected but as an “individual,” you do not speak for the rest of the Earths population.

Resources are limited on this planet and when 1% of the population controls a majority of the wealth available, the dignity of the other 99% is affected.

I think your interpretation of humanism is seriously flawed because humanism as I understand it is not okay “with significant disparities in income and wealth” when such disparities cause much human suffering all around the globe, including here in the states.

#17 Ronald A. Lindsay on Friday July 13, 2012 at 6:55am

Was tied up in meetings and other administrative duties yesterday (part of the job), so I’m tardy in responding, but I will respond to all comments later today.  For now, let me clear up one misperception. (See comment # 4 by Socratic Gadfly) I am not opposed to a progressive income tax, which is why I made my crack about the absurdity of the flat tax. A basic understanding of economics indicates why progressivity makes sense. Among other reasons, the marginal value of $1000 to someone earning $30,000 per year is much more than the marginal value of $1000 to someone earning $300,000.

Moreover, I think rates can be much more progressive for the top end than they are today. I favor repealing the Bush era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000.

That said, I think a taxation rate of 75% or 80% for high earners (as has been discussed in France) may not be prudent policy. Certainly, given that humans respond to incentives, at some point the rate of taxation will inhibit productivity and risk-taking. Therefore, some radical leveling of the differences in wealth and income could produce negative consequences. That’s essentially the point I was making in my discussion under my second heading.

Re the post-war boom, many factors contributed to that, including the pent-up demand following a lengthy depression and a multi-year war.

Finally, Socratic Gadfly, nothing I have said indicates CFI has “moved beyond secular humanism.” More on that later.

#18 Ronald A. Lindsay on Friday July 13, 2012 at 11:04am

Thanks to everyone for their comments. Anyway, to continue what I started this morning, here are some additional responses.

@Matt #1. That some people have achieved wealth through unethical means is beyond dispute. That this phenomenon is as common as you seem to believe is highly disputable. Regarding houses: the market for mansions for the top 1% has a negligible effect on the pricing of housing for the rest of us.

@Jason #3. It’s a frustrating thing for me. I am often criticized for having posts that are too long. Then when I try to be more concise, I sometimes get criticized for leaving things out.

Anyway, nothing in my post, which focused on relative income and wealth, should be interpreted as suggesting that absolute levels of wealth are unimportant. In particular, I agree with you that governments have an obligation to provide access to affordable housing, a decent minimum of health care, free quality public education, and so forth. But you can have a secure safety net and still have income and wealth inequalities. Sweden has billionaires also.

@JakeR #5. The last time I checked, the top marginal income tax rate in Sweden was 56%—higher than the United States but hardly confiscatory. And as I just indicated, Sweden has its wealthy people too, although I will grant that the level of income and wealth disparity is less than it is in the United States.

I also question whether it was the gross income inequality that led to the Arab Spring or the boiling over of decades of frustration at living under a dictatorship. It seems to me it was much more of the latter.

@Randy #6. First, your remarks provide an interesting contrast with Matt who suggests that the rich cheat their workers, and pay them less than they deserve. Anyway, along with most people, I’m not in competition with the rich for maids, butlers, gardeners and so forth, nor is there any indication that the hiring of house staff by the wealthy skews labor markets. In particular, I am unaware of any study that indicates people are leaving the health professions to work as majordomos for the super-rich. Let me know if you have any evidence to support your claims.

Finally, I used my rephrasing of Jefferson not to make a specific point about housing, but as a way to illustrate this larger point: in and of itself, we should not be concerned about the fact that some people have many more material possessions than most of us, provided we have sufficient resources to lead a meaningful life and the rich don’t use their wealth to deny us our equal moral and political standing.

@Daniel #7. As already indicated, my post focused on relative income and wealth. I don’t disagree with your remarks about the need to ensure people everyone have enough to maintain a decent standard of living.

Have to turn to something else now. Will have more to say later.

#19 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Friday July 13, 2012 at 11:55am

Comments back ...

One, add up taxes plus private health insurance costs to compare us to countries that have single-payer, and the US actually has the same tax rate as “socialistic” old Europe. It’s just that, in general, it has fewer tax loopholes, and also, on things like a VAT, skins the tax animal a bit differently.

Two, is Sweden’s 56 percent confiscatory or not? Ron doesn’t make that clear, as far as his POV. Related to that, remember, we’re talking marginal tax rates, not overall. The 56 percent only applies to the top portion of income.

Otherwise, I await Ron’s further comment. We’ll see how much I find to agree with. And, what is confiscatory or not on his top marginal rates. And, being a lawyer with years of DC experience, just how detailed Ron is willing to be.

Now, tax policy is not the only tool to try to drive income equality, I’ll agree. I’ll also wait to see what, if any, other tools Ron has to offer.

#20 Ronald A. Lindsay on Friday July 13, 2012 at 3:20pm

Some further thoughts.

@Craig #8. You put forth an interesting idea, but I still reject the notion that corporations should have unqualified free speech rights. It’s not that corporations are “evil,” it’s that they are not natural persons and, of necessity, they must pursue their own specialized interests. Natural persons are not born with charters that set forth their business plans. The legal fiction that corporations are “persons” was instituted principally to ensure they could sue and be sued, enter into contracts, limit the liability of their shareholders, and for various other sound, practical commercial reasons. No problem with that. But there is no constitutional justification for transforming this legal fiction into an entitlement to unqualified free speech rights.

@Ben #10. Most of the wealthy would probably not admit that they have so much they can’t spend it all. There are always $120,000,000 paintings to buy. And, in fairness, some of them, such as Gates and Buffett, can argue their accumulated wealth can be put to good use by addressing problems that governments are ignoring.

@Darren #11. I agree we need to help those in need. I also think we can fight faith-based bigotry at the same time. In other words, I don’t see this as an either-or situation.

@tpobserver #16. To the extent disparities in wealth cause suffering, then that problem needs to be addressed. There’s nothing in my post that suggests otherwise. But as the example of some Scandinavian countries illustrates, you can provide a secure safety net and still have disparities in income and wealth.

OK, that brings me back to Socratic Gadfly.

First, SG, I read your blog post. And, although I’m extremely reluctant to dig up a past that is best buried and forgotten, I can’t let your false statements about Paul Kurtz stand. The fact is Paul Kurtz was not forced out of CFI. He was a director in good standing when he voluntarily resigned in May of 2010. Moreover, the board of directors did not appoint me president in June 2008 because they wanted to install New Atheism as the philosophy of the organization, but because there were problems in the management of the organization. Kurtz, as part of his relentless efforts to regain absolute authority, later created a mythology about how there had been an ideological split that led to his loss of control, but the Gospels may have more veracity than the stories spun by Kurtz. There’s no need to discuss this further. If you want more information, please refer to the extended interviews both Kurtz and I had with blogger Eric Veith (Dangerous Intersection), which I think can still be found online.

Only one other point about Kurtz: if you regard him as the touchstone for secular humanism, it’s worth noting that he’s a wealthy individual himself, who never thought there was a contradiction between being rich and being a humanist, nor was he reluctant to befriend the wealthy.

Now let’s turn to substance. In your post and in your comments you jump to several unwarranted conclusions and conflate separate issues. (And, ironically, you chastise me for lacking critical thinking skills!) For example, you state that, “Ron Lindsay doesn’t care how stinking, filthy rich you are. Or how little you give to charity. Or even how much you bash the poor for causing their own poverty, allegedly.”

These are three separate, logically distinct statements. More importantly, only the first statement represents even a distant approximation of what I say in my post. I do assert that in and of itself, the fact that someone is rich should not be a concern for humanism. If you think so, explain why. Then we may have a substantive disagreement. (By the way, I also don’t think that the adjectives “stinking” and “filthy” necessarily apply to someone who is wealthy. Your use of these modifiers may betray your mindset.)

I never said that I don’t care whether the rich give to charity or not, nor is that implied by anything I said. Moreover, that is not what I believe.

I never said that I don’t care whether the poor are bashed for their own poverty, nor is that implied in anything I said. Moreover, I don’t think that bashing the poor is appropriate.

The bottom line is that you misinterpreted my post. My post was focused on arguing against irrational animosity toward the wealthy while at the same time arguing that there are certain aspects of income and wealth disparity that should concern us, with one of those being the way in which those who have ample financial resources can dominate the political process. My post was not intended as a comprehensive treatise on appropriate socio-economic policy.

Irrational animosity toward the wealthy is sometimes manifested by humanists, and I think your comments provide a perfect illustration of this. This animosity is a distraction from the issues on which we should focus.

Don’t think I need to say anything else. I never claimed to have the perfect formula for tax rates or for other aspects of fiscal or economic policy, so I’m not going to discuss whether 56% as a marginal rate is too high or too low or other such topics. You mention that I have training as a lawyer. You’re right. And when a lawyer finishes presenting the arguments he set out to make, he sits down.

#21 Daniel Loxton (Guest) on Friday July 13, 2012 at 4:35pm

@Daniel #7. As already indicated, my post focused on relative income and wealth. I don’t disagree with your remarks about the need to ensure people everyone have enough to maintain a decent standard of living.

@Ronald: Thanks for taking the time to offer these responses. It seems that our views on humanism and poverty have significant overlap, which is always a pleasant outcome to any discussion.

#22 SocraticGadfly (Guest) on Friday July 13, 2012 at 6:46pm

Ahh, but then, the lawyer’s client (or cause) faces cross-examination, Ron.

First, I’ve never said I’ve defended Paul Kurtz on everything. It was poor financial management to have so high a percentage of funding eggs in one donor’s basket. That then said, that also involved poor board oversight for some time.

As for the history, I’ve already read both of Veith’s interviews. There’s gray area both ways. I’ve also read the blog post of 2010 with the 80-plus comments, including some by perspicacious

And, it’s nice to see that my comments are already being labeled as “irrational animosity.”

So, let me start the cross examination back (and I’m adding this to my blog post,too):

Ahh, thanks ... one other curiosity which I haven’t solved so far is, who was among the corporate clients of Seyfarth Shaw when you were there? (They’re not listed, as far as retained clients, at least, on the company website.)

Especially if you’re not willing to be more specific about how to address income inequality and other issues, the question of what corporate employers you might have represented in employment law, over what issues, is a legitimate question. (“Goes to motive” is, I believe, the legal phrase.)

I also note that several years ago, I was one of the first people to ask what the then-wingman of Markos Moulitsas, aka Kos, one Armando Llorens, was hiding when he didn’t want to talk about his legal work. Well, we eventually found out he wasn’t all that liberal, at least in terms of legal counsel/issues.

There may be no “issues” ... or past history of relevance. I don’t know.

And, finally, as a journalist, I have some awareness of how and why lawyers use language as and when then do.

As for inferences, rather than assumptions, that linguistic sword cuts both ways.

As for my use of “stinking” and “filthy,” the sword of literary license cuts both directions.

As for the rich in general, within the world of the rich, you have a Donald Trump on one hand, then you have others who know that income inequality and tax rates (i.e., Warren Buffett) are problems.

Finally, if you don’t think you need to say anything else, then don’t blame others, given the above, for alternative interpretations. But, your one subhead was about “aim for complete egalitarianism.” If you are being questioned on how to do that, well, again, the ball’s in your court. If you meant that and the other subheads as ultimately being little more than rhetorical questions, then that should have been made clearer.

Finally, you never have addressed one issue I raised in my blog post — how do you think you can disaggregate Citizens United and related narrow issues of political power from larger income inequality issues?

The way I see it is, you can’t.

Anyway, if you do want to get more specific in any follow-up, please address that, too.

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