Arnold Kling  

Ross Douthat on Liberaltarianism

I Challenge Richard Florida... Austrian Challenge: What Would...

He writes,

...a bigger-tent liberalism - somewhat chastened, perhaps, by some big-government failures in the Obama era - that makes libertarian intellectuals feel welcome, engages them in conversations about smarter regulations and more efficient tax policy, and generally woos them away from their culturally-dissonant alliance with people who attend megachurches and Sarah Palin rallies. This would make for a smarter left-of-center in the short run, but I think in the long run it would be pernicious. It would further the Democratic Party's transformation into a closed circle of brainy meritocrats, and push the Republican Party in a yet more anti-intellectual direction.

Read the whole thing. A lot of it resonates with me.

I confess to being an intellectual snob, but by the same token I claim to be able to differentiate between knowledge and educational pedigree. I respect a well-read self-taught individual more than a Harvard-educated narrow-minded one.

To put it another way, I see a difference between Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin. To the average lefty, both of them are morons. I think Reagan was genuinely engaged with profound ideas. Palin may have talent and charisma, but I do not think she could explain Hayek.

I see elite Democrats as exploiting "the poor" in order to pursue their own drive for power. People who genuinely care about the poor work with the poor and give their own money to the poor. Liberals mostly just pose about caring for the poor and take money from others (including many who are not well off) to burnish that pose.

On the other hand, I see elite Republicans as exploiting the fervently religious. My guess is that the top layer of Republican policymakers is a lot less hard-core about faith and religious issues than they care to let on in public.

Suppose that we could "out" the top policy wonks and leaders of both parties. My guess is that we would see a Democratic elite that views poor people with more disgust than sympathy. And I suspect that we would see a Republican elite that finds religious fervor more disturbing than congenial.

The way I see it, the libertarian's task is to try to restrain the power-hungry elites in both parties. That is quite a challenge.

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COMMENTS (37 to date)
Matt writes:

An intellectual and their theories is the same as the man with a hammer. The man sees everything as a nail and the intellectual sees a use for his theories everywhere he looks.

Humility in the power of govt. is not something that liberals have or will ever have.. almost by definition.

pj writes:

I think you're quite unfair to Palin, who closely resembles Reagan. Palin was able to cite and explain Lincoln spontaneously during the campaign; she is well-read and thoughtful. The difference between her and Reagan is largely one of age and experience. Reagan thought deeply about conservatism between ages 40 and 60, and we got to know the president during his mature years. Palin has not yet read and thought as deeply as Reagan had by age 70, but she is similarly curious and thoughtful and engaged with the deep issues, and comparable in intelligence I think.

Les writes:

I tend to dismiss sweeping generalities which are not supported by factual evidence and careful analysis.

For example, who can say anything reliable about Sarah Palin unless they know her well and have frequently interacted with her? I think those who have only seen her on TV can say little beyond the fact that she can deliver a good political speech, and has achieved politically to a major degree by being elected governor of Alaska, and by being selected as a running mate by the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

In my opinion, that is too much favorable evidence to wave her aside as a potential national political figure. But it also seems too little to compare her to two-term President Ronald Reagan.

Mike Rulle writes:

I will accept (for purposes of argument--not that I actually agree) your relatively surprising statement that: "I think Reagan was genuinely engaged with profound ideas. Palin may have talent and charisma, but I do not think she could explain Hayek". I will also accept the implication that, at the time Reagan ran for office, this was something that was readily discoverable about him and considered important. After all, it does us voters no good to discover after the fact that "he could explain Hayek". I will also set aside the issue of what economic philosophers in history are understood by any of our politicians.

I find your comment on Reagan, Palin and Hayek disturbing. It is illustrative of a profound mistake the professional intellectual class, as a whole, tends to repeat. Whether Palin, or Reagan, read, or even heard of, Hayek is way beside the point. The relevance of Hayek, is not the man or his books, but the "world view" he explored, believed and passionately wrote about.

Do you think one would have needed to read Hayek to come to his view of the world? Of course not. It is almost the essence of his argument that the world view he professes is part of our nature, and thus implicitly discoverable by all. To believe one would need to be able to "explain Hayek" to share his world view would be as large a "fatal conceit" as anything Hayek criticized the Left about. Granted, your phrase "explain Hayek" was likely meant to be a simple semantic metaphor. But your simultaneous admission to "intellectual snobbery" and your belief in Palin's inability to "explain Hayek" makes that seem less likely. It is not intellectual snobbery to believe a person who does not sufficiently understand the nature of our country or the world should not be president. But it is intellectual snobbery to imply that one should be able to explain Hayek (or Marx, Kant, or Hume) in order to be be president. To equate these "capabilities" would be ridiculous.

The issue, therefore, is what policies a politician proposes and why. Your admitted intellectual snobbery is surprising to me, as I have seen you express explicit opinions to suggest the contrary. I like Sara Palin. I have not fully made up my mind about her and in the end may agree she is not suited to be president. What will be on my checklist are her commitment to economic freedom, the pursuit of policies which lesson the impact government has in all our lives, and her recognition that there really are political forces in this world who want the United States weakened or even destroyed. Each of these broad policy areas, of course has many components.

One thing not on my checklist is "explaining Hayek".

Alex J. writes:

The politicians want power and the people want to posture. I think the politicians actually want to pull the levers of power, but like an airline pilot, they are constrained by circumstances. There's competition for office and they must satisfy their voters. The voters don't have to satisfy anyone. They can vote for whomever they choose.

I think successful politicians are those who can satisfy their constituents' desire for posturing. A problem is that reality can conflict with one's posture. (e.g. minimum wages) A successful politician can craft policy that minimizes this dissonance. (e.g. "affordable housing")

Libertarians don't want power. Economists make posturing difficult. "A rising tide raises all boats" doesn't do much for a voter's wish to appear charitable and benevolent. The conflict with politicians and the electorate is obvious. "Lose the we" is not likely to be an energizing campaign slogan. Think of all of the ire that Thatcher raised with "There's no such thing as society."

Zdeno writes:

I think you might overestimate Palin's intelligence. She went to four colleges in five years to eke out a 3rd-tier communications degree. She represents the kind of religious/redneck bloc that the republicans need to distance itself from.

Not bad to look at though...

I agree with the analysis of elite Republicans and Democrats using poor rednecks and minorities respectively as tools in the larger game. But the Democrats have framed it in terms of "compassion" for the poor underclass. Compassion implies superiority, so the Democrats can market themselves as the party of the huddled masses, and their enlightened caregivers. The Republicans, in contrast, have embraced rednecks as the core of their party and have marginalized the intellectual-libertarian faction. As a result, Republicans are viewed, somewhat justly, as the anti-intellectual party. Not a good long-term strategy. We conservatives/libertarians need to completely rethink our approach if we want to reverse our dismal failure to affect policy in the past century (or two).

duracomm writes:

An honest comparison of how the media treated Palin's errors to how they treated Biden's errors would make a neutral observer question the accuracy of the Sarah Palin image the media created.

Biden should have been made a laughing stock for his statement that the US and France forced Syria out of Lebanon.

The fact that he was bought in for his foreign policy expertise and had decades of Washington experience made this error particularly egregious.

Yet it was roundly ignored by most of the media.

We will learn more about Palin in the next few years. However, I don't think her errors were that bad compared Biden's.

Particularly when you consider Biden had decades of experience in washington and Palin had about 9 weeks to get up to speed.

Robert writes:

The defense of Palin in the comments truly surprises me. Either you guys are the hardest of the hard-core republicans or I have been reading all the wrong sources.

Even George Will and Peggy Noonan and Charles Krauthammer admitted that Palin was generally uninformed and incurious about global issues. Bush Doctrine? Katie Couric interview?

That doesn't mean she's not smart - that proposition is probably impossible to settle definitively due to lack of evidence.

William Bruce writes:

Although I do largely agree with Les and Mike Rulle's articulated points, I also believe there are some particulars to consider vis à vis Reagan's history and Hayek's philosophy.

Consider, for example, Reagan's fabulous speech-writing record -- which I believe is very telling with regard to intellect and understanding, as we are discussing them. And returning to the issue of formal and informal education, might it be germane that Reagan majored in economics (Caplan strikes again?). I think these particulars are illustrative of something, something of which there is no equivalent to be found when considering Palin. In fact, from what I have seen the comparison is rather embarrassing for admirers of Reagan (of which I consider myself an extremely qualified member), if for no other reason than because of what Reagan was able to accomplish, both in terms of debate in the public space and with regard to political policy.

However, the more important issue is the matter of Hayek and Hayek's philosophy. Although I would certainly wish to avoid putting words in Arnold Kling's mouth, I will run with the assumption that he did not mean to imply scholastic knowledge of Hayek's life was the matter. I do this primarily out of charitable interpretation -- since I agree with such a notion, I will charitably assume everyone else does as well.

Therefore, I would say that “explaining Hayek” is not necessary, but considering Hayek's distinct contributions to economic, political, and social science, it would be a splendid indicator of some intellectual substance and political/economic understanding. It could be argued that familiarity with the ideas of his British and Scottish intellectual forebears would provide an equivalent indicator, but I assume the larger issue involves actually taking Hayek seriously with regarding to his theory (as Mike stated). Therefore, we must wrestle with the notion that some of the most important kinds of knowledge are tacit – and that the good statesman might not be capable of articulating (or even be influenced by) the sort of armchair intellectual constructs that probably appeal to those who read or write at a blog such as this. All in all, this sounds very Socratic to me, and I am hopeful that such a Weltanshauung would not be off-putting, since I am inclined to think it is true.

Jacob Oost writes:

As a pro-life, pentecostal Christian, foreign-film-watching, science-reading, self-educated redneck libertarian I certainly don't fit into anybody's preconceptions about voting blocs. The exception disproves the rule.

Based on the comments, I think I understand the "conservative," Republican culture(s) better than anyone here and while some of you have a thread of the truth here or there neither of you has the whole cloth.

First, you have to realize that among religious conservatives, there is no single school of political/economic thought. You'll find everything from welfare state protectionists, paleoconservative hawk protectionists, Lew Rockwell types, and plenty of more mainstream Limbaugh/Sowell/Friedman style thinkers.

If you *really* want to understand "conservative" politics, you'll listen to Rush Limbaugh, or at least read his magazine. Libertarians may be shocked at how much they agree with him.

You must also understand that there are plenty of intelligent people who firmly believe that the threat of terrorism and/or the staggering loss of life in this country due to abortion (on average more than ONE MILLION babies aborted in the US each year) are bigger concerns than tax rates or regulations or monetary policy--as incredibly important as those are.

As for Sarah Palin, she ain't perfect, but neither was Reagan (go look up Reagan and protectionism). I also can't bear the class-based snobbery that chastises her for attending different colleges (or what "tier" those colleges are). Yes, I said class-based. What would James Buchanan think? Judge a person by what they achieve in life, not in academia. Many accomplished students go on to do nothing of note, whereas......

Brad Hutchings writes:

So libertarians engaging lefties should open the conversation with, "you're right about the social issues, but your understanding of economics is wrong.". See how that works for you.

Jacob Oost writes:

Most "liberals" are as statist on social issues as they are on economic issues. Speech codes, hate speech laws, government-enforced political correctness, etc. Just take a look at Europe. Look up Geert Wilders or Theo Van Gogh for a preview of what American "liberals" have in store for us.

Forcing somebody to recognize a marriage they don't believe is legitimate is not a libertarian position, government recognition of marriage is itself not a libertarian position. Using the powers of taxation to fund "art," pop sociological research, etc., is not a libertarian position.

I see many "conservatives" who want to use the power of the state to bring about desired social ends, and that is wrong, but outside of the censorship of public obscenity and the gay marriage issue (an issue where both "sides" are wrong for the same reason but in different ways) this kind of social statism isn't nearly as prevalent on the right as it is on the left.

FWIW, I *do* think local governments ought to be able to write their own laws regarding public obscenity. Only a doctrinaire libertarian or a smut-peddler would have a problem with this, IMO. For example, I do not think that people should be allowed to have intercourse in public areas, or that images of genitalia should be displayed in public areas. Such a scenario would hardly be a slippery slope to a police state.

RobbL writes:

Is the issue "statism" or liberty? Are you really ready to sacrifice a better life if statism is the way?

If the only way to eliminate Jim Crow laws is the state, then statism is a good thing. If there is a more efficient way, then that is ok too...but no one was able to find it when the time came.

So you don't think that genitalia should be displayed in public places. Does that mean you are in favor of the state closing down displays of Greek statues? I would say that yes, this is the slippery slope you fear and embrace.

Jeff writes:

So Ross wants libertarians to come home to the Right?

I think he'll get his wish over the next 4-8 years, as conservatives will likely have the company of libertarians in vociferously opposing and critiquing the Obama administration.

That said, I wouldn't expect any such conservative-libertarian alliance to be very long-lasting (the Bush years having revealed some pretty deep rifts between modern conservatives and classical liberals), particularly if Ross' own slightly quixotic political project, articulated in Grand New Party, takes off. As a libertarian, I don't see much in the Sam's Club Republican faction that excites me. Same goes for most other flavors of what passes for conservatism these days.

But who knows? Maybe I'm just a snob like Arnold.

James A. Donald writes:

Robert writes:

The defense of Palin in the comments truly surprises me. Either you guys are the hardest of the hard-core republicans or I have been reading all the wrong sources.
Palin, like Reagan, excites rage and fanaticism in her opponents. People who are genuinely not too bright do not get that reaction.

If anyone doubts that Reagan was an intellectual who thought deeply about a wide range of important topics (unlike most of his critics) they should read "Reagan, in his own hand" - a collection of those of Reagan's writings that we know for sure were written by him, and not by his staff.
We don't have anything comparable for Palin, but the rationale for concluding that Palin is an ignorant moron is strikingly similar to the rationale for concluding Reagan was an ignorant moron.

AJ writes:

One of the best analyses by Schumpeter was that each class or profession tends to adopt and agree with those ideas which make their own role in society most important (maybe some cognitive disonance there...). Then they act and vote on their ideals or idealism, not just their narrow self-interest. An economic theory of ideals. The grouping into two parties or collectives of thinking misses a lot of this. Reagan was the only president to take this on. Reagan's life was so detached from the EastCoast/WestCoast intellectual ferment that Hayek, Ayn Rand, etc. debates may have passed him by, yet he was probably the most original and profound political philosopher/thinker of 20th century presidents. I could scarcely accept this, being that that I was in the den of American intellectual life in Cambridge, MA at the time and was tempted to be somewhat embarrassed at Reagan's rise to power in the 1975-1980 time frame.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Arnold has mentioned that his Dad was a fan of the constituency model of politics, especially in explaining the Democratic Party. It would sure be nice if Republicans could find the stones to package up the religious nuts with shiny wrapping paper and a giant red bow and deliver them to the Democrats. The Republicans could become the party of socially tolerant people who weren't shorted the economics gene. They might even win a few seats before the end of the century.

Mike Rappaport writes:

"The defense of Palin in the comments truly surprises me."

I actually find the attack on Palin by the Right surprising. I like Palin. I don't think she was ready for the presidency in 2008 (although she was more ready than many, like Biden), but she clearly had a great deal of potential. Whether she will turn out to be attractive, once she developes and we know more about her, is a real question. But the dismissal of her strikes me as both class bias and being taken in by the media.

Jacob Oost writes:

I'm with you, Rappaport. There's an ugly veneer of class bias on much of the criticism of Palin. Behind it all is a disdain for middle America, for people without a moneyed pedigree. It makes me sick.

Randy writes:

For anyone with an interest in running for office, the Republican party is a buy low, sell high, kind of opportunity. The Progressive's welfare state model cannot work and so it will not work.

fundamentalist writes:

Kling: “On the other hand, I see elite Republicans as exploiting the fervently religious.”

Right on! I am a citizen of the only state in the union in which McCain carried every single county, Oklahoma. Republicans thought they had an old-fashioned tent revival of conservativism with the election of Reagan, but they were fooled. The religious right has almost always been Baptists because they outnumber all other denominations by such a larger measure. Before 1980, Baptists didn’t care about politics. We thought the best way to change the world was to win individuals to Christ and politics was a dirty business.

Historically Baptists feared and loathed the state. We gave the US its first taste of separation of church and state in Rhode Island. Reformed churches, such as the Presbyterian and Lutheran, always favored using the state to transform society, not Baptists.

The Moral Majority movement changed that thinking, although many of the leaders in the movement weren’t Baptist, but they held similar beliefs on morality. MM convinced Baptists to try to use the power of the state to reform society and Baptists fell for it for the first time in history. Big mistake!

Reagan tapped into that dawning political awareness with moral issues, but Republicans never understood that Baptists are generally socialists on economic issues. Oklahoma is a good example. The state has voted Republican for Presidents and Senators for decades, but Democrat for Representatives and for members of the state legislature. Registered voters are overwhelmingly Democrats who vote Republican on moral issues.

What we witnessed in the last election was evidence of a growing disillusionment with politics on the part of Baptists. Almost 30 years of political activism has seen little progress on those issues Baptists care most about, such as abortion, and a growing awareness of being taken for granted. As a result, more and more Baptist Democrats are returning to the Democratic party where they feel at home on economic issues. As this trend continues, moral issues will decline in importance in political races and economic ones assume greater importance.

Okies voted for McCain on moral issues. The recession hadn’t hit this part of the country yet because of the oil industry in the state, so economics wasn’t on our minds. The state is the last hold out of the defunct Moral Majority and this will probably be the last time a Republican will sweep the state.

Socialism has won. Democrats are socialist and Republicans socialist-lite. As we just witnessed, no president could advance socialism to the degree that a Republican can. We are returning to the pre-Reagan era in which Republicans were a perpetual minority that always wanted what Democrats wanted, but just a little less.

Tom Johnson writes:

I am a registered Democrat and for most of my life have been self-labeled Liberal. All, of you need to know 'we" are just humans-yes, just like you. "You" need to stop claiming you know what we believe and what we want to do to all of you. All the namedropping belies your "rugged individualism". Think for youself. Don't rely on Ann Coulter or Rush for rationalizing your obvious hatred of "us".

Doug Murray writes:

The smart people at the top of both major parties aren't smart about Hayek - they're smart about Gallup.

I imagine Hayek himself was less concerned what people knew about him than what they knew about his ideas.

If somehow, the average voters embraced those ideas whether or not they understand the source, the 'leaders' of both parties will follow obediently.

All that is needed is to get Hollywood, the NEA and John Stewart to embrace Hayek.

John writes:

Nice straw man, Tom.

Barry Kelly writes:

Arnold, you can't even get away from your own political biases to make these comments. For example, you say "Liberals mostly just pose about caring for the poor and take money from others (including many who are not well off) to burnish that pose".

The trouble with this statement is that taking a little money from a lot of people is far more effective in raising money than a lot of money from a single person; so you'll find more people arguing for it. The fact that current tax codes worldwide usually also leave many poor people monetarily less well off (though not less well off considering net value, including social services), isn't terribly relevant. Alternative tax strategies, such as negative income taxes for poor people, would likely be far more preferable for so-called social liberals, but such huge change is very difficult for reasons, including practicality, politics, vested interests, etc.

shecky writes:

It's amazing how Palin figures so heavily in the responses to the post, the best defense anyone can muster in her defense is that she is unknown, a might-have-been. Does this strike anyone else as the right grasping for the thinnest of straws?

I tend to think much of the Republican's woes can be blamed on their insistence on waging a culture war that has largely been lost, and still losing. Few substantive wins have been made in the Republican administrations of the last quarter century regarding cultural conservatism. Economically, an argument can be made that the most conservative President in that time was actually a Democrat, all while still riding the coattails of longstanding liberal social reforms.

The Republican party has been intellectually rudderless for a while now, those seeds were sown back in the 70s. That they remain a viable party is testament to the Democrat's general ineptitude and a somewhat skeptical pool of voters. I wish it weren't so, but I suspect we'll see more of the same for the next couple cycles if the GOP decides to continue it's slide into yokeltarianism.

Molon Labe writes:

Kling's comment is summarized with, "The way I see it, the libertarian's task is to try to restrain the power-hungry elites in both parties."

First, Rolle and a few others provide insightful comment to which my comments would only be additive. To provide something new and distinct to the comments, I think it's interesting that a two party system is the presumed case. Historical record accepted, their is room for a multi-party process. If the theory of representative democracy holds, then combined with the theory of libertarian beliefs, an 'independant' libertarian party has space to gain power at the present. Holding to its own doctrine, such a movement would have to be carried through the initiatives of the people, building upon foundations of local constituencies at city, county, state levels. Combined with mass communication available to each individual today, there exists the potential for a 'virtual levee en mass' that could easily link local constituencies to form a national coalition able to compete with the 'two parties'. Accepting two parties as the standard represents a 'fait accompli' cognitive bias amongst the very minds and individuals who must work together to achieve broader, and 'smarter' representation. If the people are not the cause of the change, deemed incapable of determinig and developing their own direction and representation, then all theories of liberal democracy have failed and we are best to move to whats next sooner than later, something I'm not ready to admit.

Sean Giorgianni writes:

Parties don't solve practical problems. Progress will wilt until and unless we ignore parties and embrace structured thinking about how to apply limited resources to prioritized objectives. It really is as simple as an up/down vote on revenue and policy.

Ann writes:

"It's amazing how Palin figures so heavily in the responses to the post, the best defense anyone can muster in her defense is that she is unknown, a might-have-been."

No, I'd say the best argument in support of her is that she has taken a strong, consistent stand against corruption, even when it was in her own party and that stance might hurt her. Living in Illinois, I can't help but contrast this with Obama, who tried to keep his own hands clean but cheerfully wallowed in the rampant corruption of Chicago, never supporting a reformer or doing anything else to take a stand.

Obama has always been careful to put his own career first. Palin got involved because she really wanted to fix things, and she has been effective at the city and state level, making government work better.

Arin writes:

Business republicans exploit theocons to pass policies that upwardly redistribute income.

So what do "liberal elites" do by exploiting "the poor" - they pass policies that downwardly redistribute income. Gee, that's horrible - someone should warn the poor.

I'm sorry, this is not exactly a coherent theory of political economy.

Donald Last writes:

Bless my soul, Hayek's ideas are not that difficult to understand especially for a very bright political lady who is evidently of a conservative bent and instinctively against the liberal Democrat notion that government knows best. We are not talking about Einstein's Theory of Relativity or Galois Theory of groups. And if we are assessing intellectual capacity I would have thought our lawyer, Barack Obama, in talking economics, is into something that is way over his head.

Roscoe writes:

Wow. The Dems win one election and you are now pontificating about their monopoly of intelligence? If Obama's bet-the-ranch strategy with this stimulus is wrong (which economics and history predict), Obama and the Dems have set themselves up for years and years of blame in just a few weeks in office.

Interesting how one defines intelligence. I would suggest as a good proxy the tendency to nominate people for cabinet roles who don't pay their taxes, while proposing legislation for unprecedented government spending and asking the public to "do its share."

fundamentalist writes:

Barry Kelly: “The trouble with this statement is that taking a little money from a lot of people is far more effective in raising money than a lot of money from a single person; so you'll find more people arguing for it.”

I don’t see how that is an argument for the state to redistribute income. There are a lot of wealthy and middle class people who give to charity.

Barry: “Alternative tax strategies, such as negative income taxes for poor people ...”

Arin: “So what do "liberal elites" do by exploiting "the poor" - they pass policies that downwardly redistribute income. Gee, that's horrible - someone should warn the poor.”

It’s nice to have people from the opposite viewpoint visit the web site, so I don’t want to frighten you off with criticism. But everyone sees the short run and visible effects of policies. The short run is all the media cares about and reports. But a good economist sees the long term and the unintended consequences. The economist’s main job is to warn people about the unintended consequences and long term effects.

The short term effect of income redistribution is more money in the pockets of the poor. That’s all the media reports. The long-term, unseen effect is lower wages for the poor. That happens because taxes reduce the money that businesses have available to invest in new equipment. Higher wages require greater productivity, which in turn requires new, better equipment for workers to enable them to produce more. No real school of economics offers any other way for wages to increase.

So the choice is between 1) quick cash for the poor today and lower wages in the future or 2) less cash today with higher wages in the future.

Kiva Oraibi writes:

"Palin may have talent and charisma, but I do not think she could explain Hayek."

Don't be ridiculous; Palin could totally explain Hayek. Okay, so the governor may not have cared for "Dogma," but I hear she loved "From Dusk Til Dawn" and she thought Salma did a wonderful job in "Frida."


anonymiss writes:

People who genuinely care about the poor work with the poor and give their own money to the poor.

Not necessarily. If you think the reason people are poor is not because they lack hand-holding and spare change from better-off people but because there are screwed up laws and practices that help keep them poor, then changing those laws makes them less poor. How is helping change those laws not caring about the poor?

This is like suggesting that the only way to help those afflicted with cholera is to care for them as a doctor or nurse. But you can also go into a lab and invent a cure for their disease. Or you can take the handle off a public water pump contaminated with cholera so that people don't drink the cholera-infested water. You can organize a neighborhood to force its leaders to install proper sewers. All of these help stop cholera, but very few of them involve actual hand-holding with the afflicted.

I am also puzzled that you're comparing the poor to the religious. These groups are very different. Poor people have an actual problem--being poor. Religious people, on the other hand, don't have a problem. They have a point of view. Addressing poor people's actual problems and addressing religious people's desire for their point of view to be more popular...well, those are two very different things.

ruralcounsel writes:

"So what do "liberal elites" do by exploiting "the poor" - they pass policies that downwardly redistribute income. Gee, that's horrible - someone should warn the poor."

No, they suck them into ARM's and sell them the dream of home ownership, then browbeat and bribe the banks into making the loans, knowing the poor will lose everything they had saved the minute the housing values or paycheck/economy hiccup. Then they scream about increasing taxes to bail out the financial sector.

Nice downward redistribution.

skeptic writes:

fundamentalist: "So the choice is between 1) quick cash for the poor today and lower wages in the future or 2) less cash today with higher wages in the future."

I think most from the opposite viewpoint understand this elementary economics, but also understand that a Corporation is not bound to increase wages as profits rise - in fact, they are bound to do everything to increase profit, so unless there is a counterposed legal compulsion to increase wages, or another mechanism for redistribution such as taxation, wages will remain low while profits increase, whether through the capital expenditure you mention or other means.

It would be nice if this were not the case, but as it stands the choices are really amongst the methods of income redistribution 1) Compulsory redistribution by taxation or 2) Compulsory redistribution by wage fixing.

Frankly I would think that redistribution by compulsory wage fixing would be preferred, as it gives the employees a choice as to how to spend, while taxation puts that choice in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.

The fact that neither is ever popular with the GOP is the reason that it looks very much like they just don't want the lot of those on the lower end of the socio-econimic scale improved at all.

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