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« Again with the Social Security checks! | Main | Israeli Space Cadet in the news »

Friday, 29 July 2011


Kae Gregory
I'm not 100% certain that the left really knows the meaning of the words 'fair' and 'share'.
Rick Richman
Conservatives look at these numbers and think they show that the upper brackets pay an extraordinarily large share of the cost of government; liberals look at the same numbers and think they show that the upper brackets have a shockingly large share of income in America. Robin Hood was not concerned with spreading the cost of the Sheriff of Nottingham's office fairly among the populace; he wanted to take from the rich and give to the poor. That is why "fair" and "share" can never really be defined; the perceived unfairness is the absence of equality, which a progressive tax system (even the most progressive in the world, which is what the U.S. system currently is) can ameliorate but not solve the perceived problem. It is the reason why Obama told Charlie Gibson he would not support a lower capital gains rate even if the lower rate produced more revenue for the government; it would generate more money for the government, but leave too much money with the "rich."
Mannie Sherberg
Rick - the last word of your comment -- "rich" (which you appropriately placed inside quotation marks -- is, I think, the root of the problem here. All three of your major terms -- "fair," "share" (used as a noun), and "rich" -- are impossible to define objectively (as are "beautiful" and "elegant" and a host of other English words). The whole subject of who's rich and what's fair is so embroiled in subjectivity and partiality that it's really a waste of time to argue over it. But there is one thing, I believe, that we can say accurately and objectively: There has always been a segment of the American people who resent those who, in their opinion, are rich -- and this segment has always been fair game for populist demagogues like Huey Long or Barack Obama. This bias against the well-off is built into the English language. Look at some of the common synonyms for "rich" in our national vocabulary: "flush with money," "rolling in dough," "made of money," "stinking rich," "on East Street," "in easy circumstances," "filthy rich" -- all of these terms suggest excess, surplus, overabundance, too-muchness. And the idea of anyone having "too much" will always seem -- to those convinced that they themselves don't have enough -- unfair. When even the English language is stacked against those who pay nearly 70% of all income taxes, then it's a safe bet that this problem of who's "rich" and what's "fair" will never go away.
Rick Richman
Mannie -- thank you for your (characteristically) eloquent comment. Let me see if I can extend it just a bit: it is not simply a question of the age-old class conflict between the "rich" and "poor," generated by (take your pick) envy or a desire to create economic justice; it is also a result of some of our best and brightest economists viewing the economy as a zero-sum game in which winners necessarily create losers, producing a moral hazard that must be changed. For such economists, the success of Mark Zuckerberg is a threat to the unsuccessful, instead of an example of the results of an economy that provides incentives and rewards for investment and risk and thus benefits everyone. http://tinyurl.com/3dw2f4w
Mannie Sherberg
Rick -- great observation! Funny thing about economists: for every Friedman or Hayek or Sowell -- who certainly were or are among the more brilliant occupants of this planet -- there seems to be a glut of left-wing economists who consider Friedman, Hayek, and Sowell screwballs or -- worse -- downright malevolent people. On the Left, it's not just winners who are considered a moral hazard -- it's the very people who write books defending the winners. No wonder economics is called the dismal science: If you write a justification for a guy like Zuckerberg, your colleagues on the Left will make your life dismal.

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