Preferences and Policy

by Don Boudreaux on March 23, 2011

in Inequality, Myths and Fallacies

At today’s New York Times’s “Room for Debate,” Chrystia Freeland writes that

The right likes to argue that income inequality as an issue doesn’t win elections because Americans don’t begrudge the rich so much as they want to join them.  The Norton and Ariely study suggests otherwise.  Given a choice, the authors find, Americans would prefer to live in a society more equal than even highly egalitarian Sweden.

Freeland commits a non sequitur.  Contrary to what she presumes, someone can – and, apparently, many an American actually does – prefer to live in a society with greater income equality while at the same time opposing government actions to redistribute incomes.

Sensible people understand that a mere preference for a particular outcome is an insufficient reason to empower government to pursue that outcome.


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