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Still UnWarrented

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Here’s a letter sent yesterday to the Boston Globe:

Jeff Jacoby exposes the flawed presumptions and conclusions in Elizabeth Warren’s insistence that wealthy Americans are morally obliged to pay more taxes because each individual’s success in the market requires the efforts and cooperation of millions of other people (“Professor Warren’s ire [2],” Sept. 28).

Pop quiz: Who described the term “self-made man” as “an incredibly naive and arrogant expression”?*  Is it someone who, apparently like Prof. Warren, assumes that proponents of limited government fail to understand that each individual in modern society critically and ceaselessly depends upon countless numbers of his or her fellow human beings?

No.  These are the words of economist Thomas Sowell, here referring to the fact that modern prosperity requires a vast system of social cooperation that is, and can only be, coordinated chiefly by market prices.  Insofar as taxes distort these prices and thwart incentives, social cooperation is diminished.

So Prof. Warren’s pointing out correctly that each person (I put it here in the words of Adam Smith) “has constant occasion for the help of his brethren”** is an insufficient justification for raising taxes.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions [3] (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 110.

** Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [4] (1776), Bk. 1, Chapter 2, para. 2 [5].