One of the major errors in the way people think about the world they live in is that they imagine there are slots available into which one person or another can be placed. A job is a pre-existing slot. A house is a slot. A position in an organization, even the organization itself, has somehow created itself and is waiting for someone to fill it. A wage, therefore, likewise. And so they conceive that a sum of money is sitting there waiting for someone to earn it. From there to the misunderstandings behind rabid socialism is a short step. I’m poor because someone else is rich, they say. More likely you aren’t poorer still because someone else is wealthy enough to pay you. Immigrants are not taking our jobs. In Spain, at least, they are doing the jobs that no one else wants to do. Time and again you hear, ‘I had to get a Rumanian/South American because I couldn’t find a ‘nacional’ who’d work properly for what I can pay.’ Children, the sick and the elderly are looked after by South Americans, bars and restaurants are staffed by Eastern Europeans, houses are cleaned by Moroccans, the corner shops that never seem to close, ever, are run by Chinese.
If Fleming hadn’t discovered penicillin, if Berners-Lee hadn’t created the protocols which make the Internet work, if Bill Gates hadn’t decided to get stinking rich by making cheap software, if Freddy Laker hadn’t taken on the state airline monopoly, if Stephenson hadn’t come up with the rocket, if Lyndon Johnson hadn’t decided to keep Kennedy’s boastful promise about going to the moon, if Margaret Thatcher hadn’t broken the more fascistic trade unions, if Norman Borlaug hadn’t improved crop yields manifold, the world would not be the place it is. These things did not have to happen when they did. There was not someone else waiting behind these people to do it if they didn’t.*
Tax the rich, they say. We already do. If they shared all the money we’d all be better off, they say. Yes, for five minutes. Then there’d be no money left to share. Stop people getting rich and we all go short. It has been tried, you know. Money doesn't pre-exist either, nor does wealth. They are not sitting about waiting to be distributed. They have to be created. Not everyone knows how to create them, and those that do are often not allowed to.
*Unlike the case of our rulers. Behind every MP, every head of government, every senior union and civil service boss there are thirty men and women with knives up their sleeves who could do the same job. One test of those who matter is they can’t be replaced.