Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Volokh Conspirator Assisted

David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy asks a question I can answer:
Is it supposed to be a great revelation that Obama would like to see wealth more "fairly" distributed than it is currently?

It's true that most Americans, when asked by pollsters, think that it's emphatically not the government's job to redistribute wealth. But are people so stupid as to not recognize that when politicians talk about a "right to health care," or "equalizing educational opportunities," or "making the rich pay a fair share of taxes," or "ensuring that all Americans have the means to go to college," and so forth and so on, that they are advocating the redistribution of wealth? Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don't actually use phrases such as "redistribution" or "spreading the wealth," in which case he suddenly becomes "socialist"?
Well, yes. You could argue that any tax-funded government undertaking whatsoever causes wealth to be redistributed, but there is difference between saying, for instance, that the suffering of the destitute should be relieved by the government and referring to "redistribution of wealth" as if it is a worthy goal in itself. According to the latter approach income disparities themselves are a problem and there is something unfortunate or even sinful about great financial success. I have my doubts about politicians who refer to a "right to healthcare," but at least such statements don't imply that our system has failed somehow because the guy down the street has more money than I do and that the government should not rest until this lamentable situation is rectified. The phrase "redistribution of wealth" is accompanied by an ethic that any moderate planning to vote for Obama should find troubling.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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