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A Big Disconnect

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Charles Lane reports that most Americans don’t share Pres. Obama’s passion for income ‘redistribution’ (“Obama’s Leaky Bucket,” Dec. 20) – a fact that suggests that most Americans, at least on this front, are consistently and admirably ethical.  University of Rochester economist Steve Landsburg offers this perspective:

“Whenever a politician proposes to make the tax code more progressive, we hear rhetoric about how the rich have too much, the poor have too little, it’s only fair to spread the wealth more equally, and so forth.  To me, the interesting thing about that rhetoric is that nobody believes it.  Of this I’m certain, because in all the years I took my daughter to the playground, I never once heard another parent tell a child that if some kids have more toys than you do, that makes it okay to take some of them away….  [T]axation for the sole purpose of redistributing income is closely parallel to behavior that we admonish on the playground all the time.  If we don’t accept this from our kids, I’m not sure why we should accept it from our congressmen.”*

Indeed.  Envy and confiscation become no less ugly and objectionable when gussied up as social policy.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* Steven E. Landsburg, The Big Questions (New York: Free Press, 2009), pp. 192-193.