Not only does redistributionist government direct wealth upward; in asserting a right to do so, it siphons power into itself. A puzzling aspect of our politically contentious era is how little contention there is about the ethics of coercive redistribution by progressive taxation and other government “corrections” of social outcomes it considers unethical or unaesthetic.

This reticence, in an age in which political reticence is rare, reflects the difficulty of articulating principled defenses of these practices. They go undefended because they are generally popular with a public that misunderstands their net effects and because the practices are the political class’s vocation today. The big winners from these practices are that class and the interests adept at collaborating with it.

Government uses redistribution to correct social outcomes that offend it. But government rarely explains, or perhaps even recognizes, the reasoning by which it decides why particular outcomes of consensual market activities are incorrect. When taxes are levied not to efficiently fund government but to impose this or that notion of distributive justice, remember: Taxes are always coerced contributions to government, which is always the first, and often the principal, beneficiary of them.