Wednesday, May 01, 2013

never forget that economics is politics in disguise...,

NYTimes | A crucial question in the debate over income and wealth inequality is whether its growth necessarily leads to a growth in the inequality of political power. If it does, then this is a powerful reason for the federal government to take active measures to reduce income and wealth inequality — even if it comes at an economic cost to the nation.

Conservatives and libertarians generally do not believe that increased inequality is a political or economic problem. To a large extent, I think that is because they fear that acknowledging the problem would require the adoption of policies they find distasteful, immoral and economically counterproductive.

That is, income and wealth would have to be redistributed — taken via taxation from the wealthy and given to the poor. The higher taxes will reduce the incentive to work, save and invest among the wealthy, conservatives and libertarians believe, which will reduce economic growth and lead to the expatriation of the wealthy from the United States, while fostering a culture of dependency among the poor that will reduce their incentive to better themselves and escape poverty.

Insofar as the political dynamics are concerned, conservatives and libertarians are generally fearful of democracy. That is because, in principle, there is essentially no constraint on the ability of the majority to take from the minority and reward themselves in a pure democracy. The founding fathers very much shared this concern and intentionally enacted numerous restraints on the majority to protect the rights of the minority to their wealth. Among these are the federal system, with relatively strong states and a weak national legislature, as compared to parliamentary systems, and a Senate where small, sparsely populated states, per capita, have more influence than large, populous states; a written constitution with strong protection for property rights; and an Electoral College instead of election of the president by pure popular vote.

One reason that conservatives and libertarians obsess over the large percentage of the population that pays no federal income taxes, often put at 47 percent, is the political concern that the nation is very close to a tipping point where the have-nots can take from the haves almost at will.