A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
George Bernard Shaw
This quote reflects George Bernard Shaw’s economic beliefs, although it can be interpreted in a few different ways. For example, in America today, we have a progressive tax system, established in part by the 16th Amendment. The general idea of this tax system is that it taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than it does the poor, thereby redistributing the wealth from the rich to the poor. In a democratic system, this type of tax almost always develops because everyone wants a share of the rich’s money without having to do anything but vote for it. However, Shaw was an avid Socialist who believed in nationalization and collectivization, two ideas inherently contradictory to this quote. In nationalization, where industries are put under government control, and collectivization, where land and wealth is placed under government control, the government is effectively robbing the rich to pay the poor. Perhaps this quote is a reference to the corruption that Shaw felt was present at the time – Paul might be a lobbyist or otherwise politically connected and influential individual, who conspires with the government to take a share of government revenue. Under this interpretation, Shaw’s political ideology would also not make sense, since in every socialist example, those in government receive a disproportionate amount of government income and are generally corrupt.