To what degree, if any, should the state use taxation and redistribution to alleviate poverty and eliminate the inequalities of wealth and opportunity that one finds in advanced industrialized nations?
First of all, please note that this is a matter of opinion only. There is no objective way to answer this question. Second, we should also note that the best answer to questions like this is almost always “to some extent.” Teachers are unlikely to give you a “to what extent” question if the answer is an absolute. This is definitely true in this case. We clearly need some redistribution, but very few people (in the US, at least) would be in favor of a socialist system that would eradicate all inequality of wealth.
Very few people would argue for a system in which there is no redistribution whatsoever. In such a system, there would be no way for the government to help people who are poor. No one would get any sort of benefits that they could not pay for on their own. This would lead to things like school kids being unable to have good breakfasts and lunches and we in the US are not likely to accept a situation like that. Thus, we clearly need to have some redistribution.
On the other hand, hardly anyone in the US would advocate true socialism. If we redistribute all our wealth and completely do away with inequality, there would be little incentive for people to work. There would be no financial reward for things like technological innovation because it would not allow anyone to get rich. In the view of most Americans, this would be a bad thing.
What this means, then, is that we need to have some redistribution, but not too much. Of course, there is no clear line between “some” and “too much.” My own view is that we need to have enough redistribution to ensure a decent standard of living for everyone in the United States. However, it would be best if we used the money we were redistributing to create things like job programs for the poor rather than welfare systems. Most poor people would rather have jobs than “handouts” and creating jobs for them would be better for the country in the long term than simply giving them money.
My view, then, is that we need enough redistribution to ensure that people have a decent standard of living. However, there is no way to prove that this answer is objectively true. Other people can certainly have other opinions.