Wednesday, August 12, 2009

income inequality # 2

Response from Larry:

Aside from Wilkinson's argument itself (which either isn't online, or which Chait doesn't bother to link to), there are a few peculiarities about Chait's presentation of the issues:

1) First, there's the use of the word "care" as a partisan divider (supposedly, Democrats "care" about inequality, Republicans don't) -- but the real issue isn't who "cares" about economic equality, but rather who would like to *force* economic equality by taking money out of the hands of those with more and giving it to those with less. As for "caring" itself, it's worth pointing out that many studies show Republicans as a group tend to be more charitable than Democrats.

2) And speaking of other people's money, it's interesting that the so-called "efficiency" argument is almost always applied to third parties -- it would be curious, e.g., to see Chait's response to a request for money from, say, me, on the grounds that his income is greater than mine, and hence less "efficiently" spent (as a good liberal, he'd understand that this hand-over wouldn't be close to creating "serious work-incentive effects"). A common thief, in fact, could use such an argument to make a case that he/she is performing an important economic function -- but most people would find something seriously wrong with that picture. In other words, the third-party (not to say god-like) point of view that assumes it can first collect and then "efficiently" distribute all of a society's wealth is deeply flawed, both economically and morally. Such a point of view is also fundamentally different from the simpler sociological observation that extra income tends to be spent on non-essentials, which seems to be Wilkinson's rather obvious point.

3) Continuing the theme of the liberal-Democrat propensity to try to get their hands on other people's money, it's just a bit amusing-ironic to see Chait complain that at least some of the "rich" *will* try to protect themselves from such seizures by even going so far as to forsake their Republicans and infiltrate the Democrats! Guess these aren't the same Democrats that care about economic inequality. Oh, that devious bastard Soros!

4) "Apparently," says Chait, "it's fair to complain about special interests when they subvert the libertarian agenda but not otherwise." No -- it's fair to complain about special interests when they attempt to use the power of the state to further those interests, but not otherwise.

5) "Today," says Chait, in a pitch-perfect rendition of the Envy-monger's Complaint, "that same [low def] television gives me slightly less enjoyment because I realize that I'm missing out on a better picture." No doubt. The remedy, however, is not to try to take money for a new TV from someone else, but rather to earn it. Which is the appropriate remedy to envy-based "care" about economic inequality across the board.

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