In Andrew’s Michelle Bachman post, Andre started a discussion about what rich get out of taxation versus poor people, and concludes:
I’m simply arguing that it is a difficult proposition to prove, one way or another, who the greatest beneficiary is of that system.
Here’s the thing, though: it really isn’t difficult at all.
Wealth is grown only on the back of talent. Your average rich person in the United States is rich because he or she owns a company that generates value through the effort of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of people: those people are able to generate value because they were educated by a system primarily public, kept healthy to generate that value through public expenditures on food regulation and water safety (and, anywhere but the United States, healthcare as well), kept alive through public expenditures on policing and fire safety and emergency workers and national defense, able to travel to their place of work to generate value by highways and transportation networks maintained by public funds, and able to have their value quantified by a uniform system of weights and measures and standards applied by public institutions.
The level of income inequality between the poorest and richest is the greatest it ever has been in human history. On the one hand, that kind of sucks; on the other hand, it’s amazing. There’s a reason that feudal lords in the Middle Ages weren’t as comparatively rich as modern tycoons, and it’s not because of technology: it’s because they don’t have to spend money on keeping people alive and healthy and generating value and furthermore able to generate the best possible value, because the government does that for them, and frankly does it better than individuals could anyway.
Without public investment, Bill Gates would never have been able to build Microsoft; he would have had to expend vast sums on apprenticeships, wall off his factories to stop banditry, and convince everybody else to use not only his operating code but the mathematics it was based upon. Microsoft would never have gotten beyond being a niche product in a portion of the country, one of a thousand such businesses: we know this because society already went through a period just like what this fantasy-Microsoft would have undergone.
And that’s why the rich get more out of the public system of taxation than the poor do. The rich get everything the poor do (and, as others have pointed out, depending on how funds are collected and allocated, they can often get more than the poor do), but on top of that they also get more opportunity to get richer, just by nature of the stability of public systems.