During debate over the recent tax bill, many people complained bitterly about the idea of allowing the wealthiest taxpayers to continue paying their current (higher) rates. They argued that it would only be “fair” to force the rich to pay even more than their less-well-off neighbors.

This idea, that the more one earns, the more one ought to be forced to give up to others, is common today. But as Dr. Leonard Peikoff reminded us in a recent podcast, the wealthy were once regarded as having the same moral and political rights as other people:

“It is agreed that “the end of all government is the good and ease of the people, in a secure enjoyment of their rights, without oppression;” but it must be remembered, that the rich are people as well as the poor; that they have rights as well as others; that they have as clear and as sacred a right to their large property as others have to theirs which is smaller; that oppression to them is as possible and as wicked as to others; that stealing, robbing, cheating, are the same crimes and sins, whether committed against them or others.”

– John Adams, “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States”, 1787
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