Once upon a time a little red hen decided that she wanted to have some bread to eat. So she planted wheat, tended her crop, harvested the ripe grain, ground it into flour, and then baked her bread. At each step along the way, she invited her friends the dog, the cat, and the duck, to help her. They declined.
Until the bread was baked. At which point, "Not I," turned into "I will." But the little red hen was smart. She told her friends that those who do not help with the work do not get to "help" with the rewards that work brings. Parents often tell this well-known story to their children to teach them the value of hard work and perseverance.
But now we are hearing messages of Shared Prosperity from Washington politicians. The message is not confined to one person, or one office. It seems to be a pervasive, and growing, theme in American politics.
It sounds wonderful. Everyone in America should have the opportunity to share in America’s wealth. It is presented as if it were a new and exciting change in the American economic system.
But doesn’t everyone have that opportunity now? The ability to create wealth through work has always been part of the American economic system. It is called capitalism – the ability to retain the wealth, or capital, that a person creates or earns through work. While not perfect, capitalism helped build the most prosperous nation on earth. A nation in which working people of any ethnic background could build financial security and pass it on to their children.
Within that system, there was a recognition that there would be those who needed and deserved additional assistance. That is why America is simultaneously known as the wealthiest and most generous nation in the world, both domestically and internationally.
The Shared Prosperity message, however, means something very different. Its proponents are not saying that help should be given where help is needed. They are saying that those who work are somehow bad for expecting to benefit from their labors, and that those who don’t work are somehow entitled to the same level of benefit as their hard-working neighbors.
This is not sharing – it’s redistribution. With the government as the arbiter. In Shared Prosperity, the state will decide how much of what a person creates or earns that person may keep, and how much he will be required to "share" with another. Because it’s not fair that everyone doesn’t have an equal portion of the pie, no matter what they contributed when the pie was made.
This is not a new idea. It’s just a new name. The old name was socialism. And socialism doesn’t work.
Because socialism destroys all the little red hens. The little red hen did the work because she wanted to eat the bread. If, after all the work she did, some government agent had come and told her that she had to give her self-made bread to her non-working neighbors, our smart little hen would have decided that she had just baked her last loaf. She would have left her garden unplanted and her kitchen idle. If she got no bread for her labors, she had no reason to labor.
Socialism, or Shared Prosperity, is always doomed to fail. Within one generation of its implementation, there is no prosperity to share because the system creates a nation filled with dogs, cats, and ducks