It’s time to gore the collectivist sacred cow that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence.
Let’s begin by stripping away the collectivism. “The community” never gave anyone anything. The “community,” the “society,” the “nation” is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person–a parent, a teacher, a customer–”gives” something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.
It was from love–not charity–that your mother fed you, bought clothes for you, paid for your education, gave you presents on your birthday. It was for value received that your teachers worked day in and day out to instruct you. In commercial transactions, customers buy a product not to provide alms to the business, but because they want the product or service–want it for their own personal benefit and enjoyment. And most of the time they get it, which is why they choose to continue patronizing the same businesses.
All proper human interactions are win-win; that’s why the parties decide to engage in them. It’s not the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs who exploit people. It’s the Al Capones and Bernie Madoffs. Voluntary trade, without force or fraud, is the exchange of value for value, to mutual benefit. In trade, both parties gain.
Each particular individual in the community who contributed to a man’s rise to wealth was paid at the time–either materially or, as in the case of parents and friends, spiritually. There is no debt to discharge. There is nothing to give back, because there was nothing taken away.