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Redistribute This

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

On the same day that Paul Krugman agonizes over data that show high American income inequality (“How Fares the Dream?” Jan. 16), Bill Knapp offers in the Washington Post a data-rich argument that questions the basis for this agony (“Middle class is moving forward, not backward“).  Data on this matter clearly are unclear.

So ignore questions of ‘what the data say’ and grant, arguendo, Mr. Krugman’s case that income inequality in America is excessive.  Ask instead: why focus on inequality of monetary incomes?  What about other inequalities, such as the inequality of influence in public-policy debates?  Mr. Krugman is certainly a one-percenter on this front.  (Indeed, he’s a 0.001-percenter!)

Shouldn’t government ‘redistribute’ parts of Mr. Krugman’s New York Times column to me and other pundits who (according to the theory) can’t help but seethe with soul-shriveling envy at Mr. Krugman’s good fortune – good fortune that (also according to the theory) has less to do with Mr. Krugman’s merits as a columnist and more to do either with chance or with his pernicious and unfair influence with the Powers-that-Be?

Surely every ‘Progressive’ believes that those of us who now possess far less access than does Mr. Krugman to the opinion pages of the Times deserve to enjoy more of the access that he currently “controls.”  And no ‘Progressive’ would let mere bourgeois obsessions with property rights and freedom block the state from forcibly redistributing such private property in the name of “social justice.”

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