The right to take money from rich people

I start by observing that the natural order of things is that each person cringes in a cave, waiting for starvation or an animal to kill him. I progress to the tribe, where the biggest, toughest bastard pounds your skull in if you don't do what he says or give him what he wants. In no natural setting is there anything like a 'right'.

The idea of a 'right' is a construction of society. At some point, the biggest, toughest bastard looked up and thought, "if I don't leave this guy some food, he's going to die and I'll have to do all the work myself." There was no 'right' to food. It was in the best interest of that chieftain to let him keep some.

As societies got more complicated, we figured out that it was really useful to let the lowlifes have 'ownership' of some stuff (I add apostrophes to 'ownership' because I think it was an illusion; the king could, and often did, come along and change the ownership to back himself). Turns out that having the continuity of 'ownership' allowed the worker to do some planning, including rearing more little workers. Kings like that.

All along, there was 'right' to ownership. It's a thing that some leader decided was a good idea and that it served his purposes. I know it's extreme but it is literally true that nobody ever gave one minute's thought to the idea of 'right' until, with some quibbles, the industrial era and the French Revolution.

At that point, the workers realized they outnumbered the kings. They realized that they were being screwed and so they invented 'rights'. The first right was the right be be killed if you were a rich asshole who said, "let them eat cake" (though I know that's actually fiction). What's true is that, in response to an idea of ownership that left most people poor, the workers killed everybody. In droves.

The cool thing about that is that they actually did define rights (no more permanent, really, than the right defined by kings, but a little more durable because they support the interests of many people) and acted on them. They encoded notions of property and obligation. (And that includes a thirty five hour work week, highly progressive taxation, and a whole lot of stuff rich people hate.) The reason that I come to this point is to make clear. Rights don't have anything to do with nature or morality or any external constant. Rights are things that are granted by the powerful to the weaker.

The genius of democracy is that it says, "We don't care if you a big, tough badass. Power resides in broad social agreement. The most brutal no longer gets to decide what's right. The populace does." Put another way, whoever could put together an army or a police force, defines the rights.

People with money and property tend to think that it is sacrosanct. That, ownership is a fundamental aspect of nature. Even cave people 'owned' their cave. Except that's not exactly right. They only kept their cave as long as the chief said they did. Since the French revolution, the decision is made by the populace with no more intrinsic restraint than a chieftain or king.

Choosing not to take money and property away from people in the country is actually a mere tradeoff of priorities. People want to conceive this as a moral issue where 'taking' is obviously wrong, but that is a fabrication of the modern age. The closest thing we have to positions based on some external moral principle are of the human species, followed by preservation of one's own society, followed by preservation of human life. After that, the competing moral positions are so varied that it's not worth discussing.

Are rich people right when they say they "earned it" so they deserve to keep it? Only if they are the only people voting. In many ways, we are all tenant farmers, working the land owned by the body politic. As with the real tenant farmers of yesteryear, they get to keep exactly what the landlord allows. If that's nothing, they have the right to go find someplace else – unless the chieftain, king or voters say you can't.