I've been reading a bit about Kant's moral philosophy. What I'm now trying to figure out is if the Categorical Imperative would demand a redistribution of wealth. Or in other words, if according to Kant, it would be morally wrong to possess more wealth than others.
Apparently, Kant himself did not think so, and considered protection of private property an important, or even the most important, purpose of the state.
However, one of the examples he gave for applying the categorical imperative is that one should not refuse to help others who are in need of help. I'm not sure if he provided a rule on how to decide if others are in need of help. From what I understand, he would reject all criteria that argue with emotion or experience, and demand a rule that is based on pure deduction. In another example, the problem of lying, analogous reasoning led him do the rule that lying would be always wrong, even in cases where common sense seems to justify it, like lying to a murderer who asks if I know where his intended victim is hiding. So I assume Kant would not be afraid to choose a generalization, even if it has startling consequences, over leaving a problem undecided and open to vague, ambigious judgement.
With that in mind, let's look at the example about helping others again. When do others need help, i.e. when does the rule kick in? One could suppose: Only in cases where someone's life is in immediate danger, like a beggar left out on the street in a freezing night. But what if the beggar was not in immediate danger of freezing (like possessing a warm coat and enough old newspapers to light a fire), but I would nevertheless be pretty sure that continuing to live on the streets would drastically reduce his life expectancy? And what about people who are not beggars, but are poor and can't afford health care of the same quality as the rich? Where do I draw the line? Would that not turn the problem into a question of experience and emotion, which would cause Kant to choose the safe side and retreat to an impeccable generalization: That no one should own more than any other?
From what I've read, Kant explains that other humans should not be treated as means to an end, but as an end in itself. With which he means that they should not be exploited, and not be restricted in their freedom to act according to their own reasoning and moral judgement. But is being poor not a restriction of the power to act? Maybe not, if you assume that the poor became or stayed poor due to their own (ill-advised) decisions, in a free market where all deals are fair. But can it be objectively decided if a market is fair? Would Kant not prefer redistibution of wealth to that ambiguity?
Again, apparently he did not. So where is the flaw in my reasoning?