"Why are you defending the rich?" Provocative question isn't it? There are so many little assumptions that are built into that one sentence.
As a conservative, I get asked this question occasionally. Ironically, it is not because I am saying the rich are great, and it is not because I am defending some of the immoral behavior of some CEOs and corporations. It is simply because I disagreeing with liberal economic policy. So why ask this particular question?
So, let us consider some of the assumptions lying behind this, and maybe then we can consider some appropriate answers.
A Matter of Motivation
The first assumption is that what I am doing is defending the rich. People have a very difficult time accepting that the thought process of someone else can be radically different from their own. As such, we often assume that someone's reasons for opposing our beliefs are along the same lines as our reasons for holding them. For instance, many Pro-life people believe that Pro-choice people actually don't mind killing children. Meanwhile many Pro-choice people assume that Pro-life people are sexist. Neither one of these assumptions are accurate, but both are based off of us having trouble separating out our motivations from the motivations of others.
In this case, I do not hold to conservative economic principles because I have any love for the rich. To be frank, I don't care about the rich one way or the other, at least not as a category. It is irrelevant to me. I don't see economic policy as a means of rewarding or punishing people for behavior. I see it as a means of maintaining economic stability for our civilization. That's all I care about.
The reason why someone would accuse me of defending the rich is because they view themselves as assaulting the rich. They may not use or like that terminology, but clearly that is the way they view things. Why else would my opposing their beliefs be considered to be defending a different group?
It's OK To Have A Little Class
Assumption two, of course, is that the rich need to be assaulted and shouldn't be defended. The poor are seen as victims of society, while the rich are seen as hoarders, preventing the poor from being delivered from their economic woes. I am speaking in hyperbole here, since I know no one that would express it this way. Every liberal I've ever met will acknowledge that there are good rich people in existence. But you can tell by the way that some of them talk, specifically the kind who would ask the titular question of this post, that they see these as exceptions.
So, do I disagree with this view? Yes, though not because I think the rich are great mind you. It is because I don't think the rich are monolithic. Some are good, and some are bad. Some of the poor are good, and some are bad. Economic status has nothing to do with moral integrity in my opinion, and I don't target a group simply because of their class. I believe this to be bigotry.
I think we can all agree that those who view the poor as universally lazy are bigoted. I think we can also agree that those who view the rich as the epitome of what it means to be an American to be equally bigoted. Where we disagree is that I believe the opposite to be bigoted as well. And I don't abide by bigotry.
The last assumption is that the purpose of economic policy is to bring justice to the world by evening out the classes. I've hinted at this before of course, it is good to address it directly.
I believe in justice and fairness, but I don't think that fairness means everyone gets the same thing. I believe everyone should get the same chances. The law is to treat everyone equal. That is not the same thing as making everyone equal. Whether we like it or not, we are not all equal in this society. I believe we were created equal, but as we live our lives, we go in different directions. Some of us succeed, and some of us don't. While it is tragic to be unsuccessful, it is not unjust or unfair.
Directly controlling the economic flow simply won't work. People are too selfish, and those in charge of directing that flow will be a higher class than those who aren't. Those who desire to eradicate the classes will merely recast them, and will cause that upper class to have considerably more control over the lower class than the system we have now. Instead of it being the rich vs the poor, it would be the government vs. the people. It isn't an improvement.
Classes are OK. They're not perfect, and it would be better if we didn't need them, but it is a natural result of living in a fallen world. It is the kind of problem that if you try and fix it, you end up breaking the whole system. What is wrong is when we think that being of one class makes you a more valuable human than someone else. That is bigotry as I said before. To some degree there will always be bigotry, and even if we managed to create a society without economic classes, we will still find ways to categorize each other and prejudge one another. We are very creative.
As a Christian, I believe that we are a fallen race. Sin and wickedness are inevitable. I am not going to look to a human system to try and fix the problem because I know it will fail. Instead, I will fight for justice within my own context, proclaim the gospel, and look forward to the return of the Son. That is the lot of the Christian, wherever we find ourselves.