I’ll Do As You Suggest If You’ll Do As You Suggest

by Don Boudreaux on September 19, 2015

in Other People's Money, Politics

Here’s a letter to someone who claims to read Cafe Hayek regularly despite his finding it to be “infuriating, juvenile and almost always wrong.”

Mr. Clarence Danby

Dear Mr. Danby:

You claim that I “have no right commenting [on] policies like income inequality that concern working Americans” because I “don’t experience and can’t relate to their daily struggles to make ends meet.”

I disagree for many reasons which, because you read my blog, I need not rehash here.  But I do want to ask how committed you are to a key proposition implied by your claim.  In effect you propose that if Jones does not personally share in the daily experiences of Smith, then Jones has no business expressing opinions about polices that affect Smith.  While your proposition, therefore, does indeed prevent me from expressing opinions about policies that affect people whose incomes are significantly lower than mine, it also prevents you and other “working Americans” from expressing opinions about policies that affect successful entrepreneurs and other people whose incomes are significantly higher than yours.

You admit to “punching a clock” for your entire career.  This reality means that you haven’t experienced, and (hence, according to you) can’t relate to, the daily struggles of business owners to manage their firms in order to remain competitive: to find financing, to deal with bureaucratic red-tape, to handle difficult supply and personnel issues, and to cope – materially and psychologically – with the many risks that are unavoidable and never-ending in starting and running businesses.

So if I’m prevented by my current economic condition from expressing opinions about polices that affect lower-income people, then you, Mr. Danby, are prevented by your current economic condition from expressing opinions about policies that affect higher-income people.  In short, by your own logic you have no business advocating – either by word or in the voting booth – higher taxes or other policies that affect people whose daily experiences differ from your own.

I agree that too many people today spend far too much energy and time butting ignorantly into the affairs of others.  Yet such officiousness is promoted by – indeed, it is the essence of – the institution that you wish to expand and that I wish to shrink: the state.

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

P.S. Contrary to your assertion, I, too, am a “working American.”  Indeed, it’s rare that I don’t work seven days a week.

I should also have asked Mr. Danby if he believes that the likes of Paul Krugman, George Soros, Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton also have “no right commenting [on] policies like income inequality that concern working Americans” because these particular men and women “don’t experience and can’t relate to their daily struggles to make ends meet.”

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