The Case of Peter and Paul
Economic conservatives rant against redistribution of wealth as being both unwise and immoral. It is unwise because it skews economic incentives. According to their argument, if people can get paid for laziness and are penalized for their productive efforts, the effect is to purchase more laziness and discourage those productive efforts.
It is immoral, according to these individuals, because nobody has a right to move in and take, without consent, the goods and services produced by another, or the profits generated from them. The goods and services themselves, or the profits, belong (by natural right) to those who created them. Whenever somebody comes along -- even the government -- and says, "Give me your money, or else", this is theft, and this is wrong.
However, these advocates tend to ignore that there is a second way for governments to redistribute wealth. The government could force Peter to cough up some money, which he turns around and gives to Paul. Or, the government can stand passively while Paul simply takes what he wants from Peter's bank account or home. The government's role in this theft is to stand watch over Peter and makes sure that he does not do something rash, while Paul sifts through Peter's property for what he wants.
This is as much of a wealth distribution scheme as welfare.
The moral issue does not change if, instead of taking property or money, the Paul destroys Peter's property instead, or forces Peter to take poison that either makes him ill or kills him. If we assume that Paul is doing this for a profit, because this will make it easier for him to collect money from Patrick, we are still seeing a redistribution of wealth. Peter suffers a loss he does not consent to, so that Paul can make himself wealthier.
A consistent capitalist cannot be against the first type of wealth distribution scheme, while he argues in favor of the second.
I am talking about the practice of poisoning the air and water that cause others to suffer sickness and death, and putting soots and acids into the air that destroy property of others, all to collect a profit from customers who buy his products. I am talking about those who enrich themselves by means in which others suffer the effects of arsenic in their drinking water and the health and property damage associated with global warming and ozone depletion.
The "Capitalist" Recommendation
Those who defend this form of "capitalism" argue that the government should not concern itself with these issues -- that the market will take care of them. If people do not like the effects of pollution, they should arrange for those who inflict this harm to suffer damage through the market, through boycotts and other expressions of economic power. If the people are sufficiently concerned, they will express it through their purchases. If they are not willing to express their concern through their purchases, then they are not truly being hurt very much.
We could take this argument and apply it to the situation between Peter and Paul. This argument states that there should be no government regulation to prohibit Paul from entering Peter's house, destroying his property, and forcing him to consume poison. Instead, Peter should be limited to using whatever market influence he has to persuade Paul not to do him harm. He should attempt to arrange a boycott of Paul's businesses. If he is not willing to take strong enough action to discourage Paul through this economic activity, then he is not truly being hurt very much.
At this point, we must ask why Paul gets to force his way into Peter's house, destroy his property, and force him to injest poison, where Peter is restricted to using economic means only against Paul. This is the hypocrisy that is being sold under the brand name "capitalism" in the marketplace of ideas these days.
In fact, the government has every right to say, in defense of those whose lives, health, and property is put at risk. Instead of standing by to warn Peter not to try anything funny as Paul threatens his life, health, and property, the government, even by capitalist principles, has a duty to tell Paul that his commercial rights end where Paul's life, health, and property begin. At that point, whether Paul is putting arsenic in the drinking water, contributing to global climate change, damaging the ozone, or any countless other activities that may be harmful to others, his right to engage in those activities ends. If the government participates in protecting Paul while he does this damage, this itself is a wealth-transfer scheme, an example of 'corporate welfare' at its worse.
My point here is not to argue that capitalism is bad. In fact, I am saying the opposite, that capitalistic principles, consistently applied, make a lot of sense. However, there is a difference between defending capitalism, and defending those with capital. "Capitalism" is not a theory that gives those with capital special rights to inflict harm on others. It is a theory that states that whatever life, health, and property you own are to be protected, and others will not be allowed to freely threaten them.
Unfortunately, those with captial have been able to use their wealth and power, and their control of the media, to mass market a perversion of capitalism that turns these principles on their head. Instead of defending the right to life, liberty, and property, they have marketed a different form of "capitalism" that protects mainly those with capital, and leaves the lives, health, and property of everybody else vulnerable to attack. The government's role is changed from preventing Paul from doing harm to Peter, to making sure that Peter does not try anything funny while Paul is at liberty to do as he pleases. It works to make sure that Peter is powerless while Paul poisons the water Peter drinks, poisons the air he breathes, and takes actions that threated to destroy Peter's property, all without Peter's consent, and all without offering a dime in compensation.
In fact, if Peter should ever protest that Paul has no right to threaten his life, health, and property, he gets branded a "liberal", he is insulted and denigrated for holding such opinion, and held up as an example to others, "Do not dare suggest that the government should be protecting your life, health, and property, or this will happen to you."