The Moral Trumps the Practical

Last week, Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders debated the merits of pending tax reform. Cruz focused on the economic benefits, pointing to tax cuts during the Kennedy and Reagan administrations and the resulting economic growth. Sanders responded, “Creating massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations doesn’t create jobs.”

Cruz is correct when he claims that tax cuts stimulate economic growth and create jobs. But such practical arguments are largely irrelevant. Tax cuts should be defended on moral grounds–individuals and businesses have a moral right to the wealth that they have earned.

Unfortunately, Cruz and his fellow Republicans embrace the same moral code as Sanders–altruism. Altruism holds that the benefit to others is the standard by which we measure policies. Sanders believes that taxing the rich will provide the most benefits to others. Cruz believes that tax cuts will provide more benefits. So the debate is over which policy provides the most benefits, rather than what is moral and just.

If your neighbor broke into your home to steal money to pay for his children’s education, his wife’s health care, or to feed poor children, we would recognize his action as theft. The principle does not change simply because government acts as his proxy. Taking an individual’s property without his consent is theft. And theft is immoral, no matter the number of alleged beneficiaries.

If Republicans want to win the debate over tax reform, they should demand that Sanders and his ilk defend theft. They should make opponents to tax cuts explain why theft is just, why it is moral to take money from those who have earned it and give that money to those who have not. But to do so, Republicans will first have to reject altruism.

1 comment to The Moral Trumps the Practical

  • Harry Mullin

    Well said! I’d add, “and they (Republicans) would have to reject the benefits they claim are justified for the public good (ExIm Bank, price supports, government investments and underwriting…)”. Sanders and the rest cry foul: “private profit, public bailout”. As an altruism compromise, there is no answer.