Income Inequality is the Symptom, Not the Disease

So writes Jeffrey Carter at Points and Figures. (h/t: Insty)

The policies that will solve for income inequality empower people.  They don’t “take care” of people.  People shouldn’t be warehoused and pushed aside or ignored from cradle to grave.  People are assets.  They aren’t liabilities to society.

I think the second part of this quote – the idea that people are assets – needs to be repeated more, because it cuts against the grain of our ruling class’ unconscious habits. Here’s P.J. O’Rourke, back in 1990:

But the sad truth of local government, like the sad truth of national government, is that people are no longer an asset. Humans do not benefit the modern state. Total 1989 Blatherboro town expenditure – including the town’s share of county government and school-system costs – was $9.5 million, or about $1,860 per person. Almost all this money was raised through property taxes and automobile registration fees. A typical new family moving to Blatherboro, with a mom, dad, and two kids, would be buying a town-house condominium with a tax-assessed value of $100,000. The current property tax rate on that condominium is $2,860 a year. If the new family owns two late-model cars, registration fees (which are based on the blue-book value of the automobile) would be about $340. Add in a few miscellaneous levies and charges, and the new family ends up contributing about $3500 per annum to the Blatherboro town coffers. But that is almost $4,000 less than the town will spend on these people. A family of four must own at least a quarter of a million dollars worth of property to carry its own weight in the Blatherboro town budget.

-Parliament of Whores

Of course, this comes from the reality that government is asked to do things that it cannot reasonably pay for, and is prevented from bringing in the necessary revenue. This stems from the understanding that government money and government spending are unlinked from reality – somehow the Government has all sorts of cash just laying around, waiting to be spent. So it becomes the government’s job to plug any economic gap caused by income inequality – a job that makes government exceedingly poor.

P.J. O’Rourke Tells Hard Truths About Scots Independence

It’s like the old days, man.

I don’t say this as a prejudiced Irishman. Even though the thistle-arse sheep-shagger Scots swiped Ulster and sent a herd of Presbyterian proddy dogs and porridge wogs to squat on our land and won the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 by using unfair—indeed, unheard of —- organization, discipline, and tactics on an Irish battlefield. We Micks only hold a grudge about such things for 300 years or so.

My only interest in an independent Scotland is whether it would retain any aspects of the monarchy, and if so, which. Given the lefty bent of the Scots, I feel as though they would instead become a boring Europublic with an elected figurehead President and a rotating door of Prime Ministers.

Well, mayhap the lairds will have something to say about that.


P.J. O’Rourke on Thoreau

Since I began the process of attempting to read Civil Disobedience, I’ve had in the back of my mind a typically starchy takedown of him by P.J. O’Rourke in his 1996 book All the Trouble in the World. I quote at length:

Thoreau took the bad ideas and worse ideals of the primitivists, added the pitiful self-obsession of the romantics, and mixed all of this into transcendentalism, that stew of bossy Brahmin spiritual hubris.

The transcendentalists were much devoted to taking the most ordinary thoughts and ideas and investing them with preposterous spiritual gravity. They saw the divine in everything, even in long, boring lectures about how everything is divine. Any random peek into the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson will show you the method by which “don’t Litter” has been turned into an entire secular religion.

In 1845 the twenty-eight-year-old Thoreau (having failed to read Rousseau closely enough) built himself a little cabin near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. The land was owned by Emerson and was about as far out of twon as the average modern driving range. Thoreau frequently wen to dinners and parties in Concord, and, according to is list of household expenses in Walden, he sent his laundry out to be done. Theoreau lived in his shack for two years devoting his time to being full of baloney…

We have hear the worst sort of person, the sanctimonious beatnik. Thoreau is the progenitor of the American hipster arrogance we’ve been enduring for the past century and a half. And he is the source of the loathsome self-righteousness that turns every kid who’s ever thought “a tree is better looking than a parking lot” into Saint Paul of the Recycling Bin.

Keep in mind that in 1996, the word “hipster” did not have the same resonance it has today. O’Rourke was referring to the whole hip tradition, rather than the particularly ridiculous exemplars of trendy vapidity emanating from the newly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn and Austin and the like. One might be worried about the relevance of this book today, if one were a preening hipster.

I’m not done with Thoreau. This has the makings of a book.

The 99% Demonstrate the Zero Sum Fallacy.

P.J. O’Rourke, right as usual. (h/t Instapundit)

But the Occupiers are wrong about something much more important. They believe in the Zero Sum Fallacy — the idea that there is a fixed amount of the good things in life. Anything I get, I’m taking from you. If I have too many slices of pizza, you have to eat the Dominos box. The Zero Sum Fallacy is a bad idea — dangerous to economics, politics, and world peace. It means any time we want good things we have to fight with each other to get them. We don’t. We can make more good things. We can make more pizza — or more tofu, windmills and solar panels, if you like.

Even if the Zero Sum Fallacy were true, redistribution would not solve it. Imagine this scenario:

  • One person has 100 dollars. Ninety-Nine people have a dollar each.
  • If you take 70 dollars from the rich person, as Paul Krugman dreams, he has 30 dollars.
  • If you distribute the 70 dollars among the 99, they end up with $1.71 each.

This is before we add in the costs of the redistributors taking their cut. So all you’ve managed to do is make one person very much poorer, 99 people infinitesimally richer, and changed no one’s disposition toward the other. The rich guy will resent the loss of his wealth and make efforts to hide future wealth for redistribution. The 99 poor, having seized the wealth once, will be unsatisfied with their take and want more.

"Just wait until we get to the guy at the top."