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Friday, August 3, 2012

Sow, and the State Shall Reap

For hundreds of years Ethiopian kings had absolute power over the kingdom’s property. A king could give it to anyone he chose and reclaim it at his pleasure. Further, property was inherited by the king rather than by the (nominal) owner’s family. Manoel De Almeida, a Portuguese Jesuit priest who lived in Ethiopia from 1624 to 1633, wrote in his history of the kingdom, Historia de Etiopía a Alta ou Abassia:

It is so usual for the emperor to exchange, alter and take away the lands each man holds every two or three years, sometimes every year and even many times in the course of a year, that it causes no surprise. Often one man plows the soil, another sows it and another reaps. Hence it arises that there is no one who takes care of the land he enjoys; there is not even anyone to plant a tree because he knows that he who plants it very rarely gathers the fruit.

Elizabeth Warren and President Obama are trying to lay the philosophical groundwork for increasing taxes–for raising the government’s take from effort’s reward. Like trees, businesses and factories are long-term investments. As the rewards of creating businesses and factories fall, fewer will be built. When the government gathers the fruit, few will plant.

  • Richard Fulmer is a freelance writer from Humble, Texas, and the winner of the third annual Beth A. Hoffman Memorial Prize for Economic Writing for his article "Cavemen and Middlemen," from the April 2012 Freeman