With Apologies to Steve Landsburg

by Don Boudreaux on December 16, 2013

in Inequality, Other People's Money

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Asserting that “The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy,” Paul Krugman explains why this “best” argument fails (“Why Inequality Matters,” Dec. 16).

The problem, however, is that Mr. Krugman misidentifies the best argument against using government to reduce inequalities of incomes in a market economy. That argument has nothing to do with the state of the economy and everything to do with the dangers and immorality of public policies driven by envy.

We rightly condemn parents who teach children to envy the possessions of others; we properly censure parents who encourage children to steal rather than to produce and earn for themselves.  If envy and thievery are antisocial, unethical, and worthy of condemnation when practiced at the individual level, they do not become social, ethical, and worthy of applause when practiced collectively through government.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market
Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Fortunately, most Americans – being more mature than the philosophically immature Mr. Krugman presumes them to be – do not worry about income inequality as deeply as do Mr. Krugman, Pres. Obama, and other “Progressives.”

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