Friday, December 27, 2013

I don't so much like the "wealth & income disparity is the cause of our troubles" argument.

I don't so much like the "wealth & income disparity is the cause of our troubles" argument. Bring it up, and somebody is bound to accuse you of stirring up class warfare. You're not, of course. Or I don't know, maybe you are. I do know that I can make the disparity argument without a trace of class concern. So you can, too, I'm sure. But it doesn't matter if our motives are pure. It only matters if our motives have been impugned. Bring up the disparity argument, and your motives are sure to be impugned. So I don't like the argument. I avoid the argument.

For me, though, it doesn't matter so much how other people respond. What matters is how the argument holds up in my own mind. Here again, though, I avoid the argument. For I am not certain I can separate the economics of the disparity argument from the social aspects of that argument. And economics, my economics, has no social aspects.


At the Businomics blog, Bill Conerly asks
Should Economists Talk About Redistribution?

An economist has as much right to express statements about value as anyone else does. However, the economist is not doing so from a position of professional expertise. [Rebecca] Blank being an expert on poverty does not mean that she is an expert on the morality of using force to solve social problems. In fact, I doubt that we should grant anyone “expert” status on such philosophical positions.

I like that a lot. But this next quote, I can disagree with:

Economic policy cannot derive strictly from economics. Economics is a set of if-then statements: if this occurs, then that happens. It’s a collection of statements about the way the world works, or at least a world of people. There is nothing within the body of economic thought that, by itself, dictates what policy is best.

I don't know if it's "within" the body of economic thought, but clearly the policy that's best is the one that sustains life as we know it... or, life as we knew it before things started going bad.

Let too few people accumulate too much wealth, and they come to have a new vision of the world, a vision in which nation-states are no longer necessary...

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