Acton Institute Powerblog

Is Making Money Evil, Harry Reid?

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I was listening to news radio and heard an update in which the senate majority leader Harry Reid gave his interpretation of events on the debt ceiling negotiation. The part that really got my attention was where he insisted that further committee work would go after those “millionaires and billionaires.”

I wondered, “What is he really saying?” Let’s begin with millionaires and billionaires. Is Reid charging them with having committed some evil? If a person had made a lot of money by force or fraud, then I would agree that disapproval and punishment might be merited. Can we confidently say that rich people, as a class, have committed evils which make them suitable subjects of a public official’s desire to punish?

Why is he so angry? Why does he make these people sound like bad people? Is it the fact that they have quite a bit of money? I suspect he does, too. Indeed, it has been noted that Reid has become a somewhat wealthy man while holding office. Does he impute ill motives or actions to himself by virtue of his possession of resources well above the average?

What if we do think that having a lot of wealth is a sign of moral weakness? Perhaps we believe that having much more money than is needed to live (even live comfortably) represents a bad choice. Even if we think that, does that mean we invest the government with the moral right to appropriate that wealth as needed so as to operate without hard debates about limits on spending? Maybe our only right is the right to have our own opinion of how wealthy people should spend their money.

I think Harry Reid needs to think more about why he’s so morally exercised. Follow the conclusions of that anger and maybe we’ll get down to basic principles. Once we get there we can have a legitimate discussion.

Hunter Baker Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. serves as contributing editor to The City and to Salvo Magazine. In addition, he has written for The American Spectator, American Outlook, National Review Online, Christianity Today, Human, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a number of other outlets. His scholarly work has appeared in the Journal of Law and Religion (“Competing Orthodoxies in the Public Square: Postmodernism’s Effect on Church-State Separation”), the Regent University Law Review (“Storming the Gates of a Massive Cultural Investment: Reconsidering Roe in Light of its Flawed Foundation and Undesirable Consequences”), and the Journal of Church and State. In 2007, he contributed a chapter “The Struggle for Baylor’s Soul” to the edited collection The Baylor Project, published by St. Augustine’s Press. He has also been a guest on a variety of television and radio programs, including Prime Time America and Kresta in the Afternoon. As a law student in the late 1990s, Hunter Baker worked for The Rutherford Institute and Prison Fellowship Ministries where he focused primarily on defending the constitutional principle of religious liberty. Prior to beginning doctoral studies in religion and politics at Baylor University in 2003, he served as director of public policy for the Georgia Family Council. While at Baylor, Baker served as a graduate assistant to the philosopher Francis Beckwith and the historian Barry Hankins. He assisted Beckwith in the editing of his landmark book Defending Life which has now been published by Cambridge University Press. He also provided research assistance to Hankins in his forthcoming biography of Francis Schaeffer. Baker currently serves on the political science faculty at Union University and is an associate dean in the college of arts and sciences. He is married to Ruth Elaine Baker, M.D. They have a son, Andrew, and a daughter, Grace.


  • You know, if you’re going to suggest that Harry Reid sees millionaires and billionaires as evil, I suggest you supply a quote for evidence. 

    Moreover, while I think it’d be insane to suggest that having wealth is itself a sign of moral weakness (and, c’mon, would anyone really claim that?), let’s at least agree that money equals power.  And, as this blog’s own tagline indicates, power corrupts. 

    • Sir! “Power tends to corrupt…” Be careful of misquotations–this one brought your argument crashing to the floor

      • Really, Ken?  I’m fine with revising my comment: “And, as this blog’s own tagline indicates, power tends to corrupt.”  It seems to me it still works.  In fact, the only way the omission brings my argument “crashing to the floor” is if you assumed my argument was to suggest that wealth necessarily made one evil, but that clearly wasn’t my point since I’d said that such an argument would “be insane.” 

        That said, I’ll take your advice.  Here’s some for you: Be careful of exaggeration. 

      • One more thing.  If you’re going to get indignant about quotes you might also want to take the author of this post to task for not supplying any. 

  • Ken

    Well, Reid himself is worth somewhere between $2 million and $6 million (2007 data), and as for force and/or fraud…further affiant saith not.