2011-07-15

Redistribution

This is the most universal argument for intelligent redistributive policies I've heard:
In a democracy if you don't attend to the interests of the poor in an efficient way you'll just end up attending to those same interests in a less efficient way.
It was made by Cornell economics professor Robert Frank on EconTalk, the flagship Hayek-tinged podcast hosted by Russ Roberts out of George Mason University's Library of Economics and Liberty, which is to say in a context that demanded of anyone making arguments for redistribution that they make them as universally attractive as possible. As someone who has longed believed in the moral and fiscal efficacy of attending to the interests of the poor, and who is personally and professionally obsessed with efficiency, it immediately struck a cord with me. Clearly it leaves open the general question of paternalism, but on the other hand it cuts very close to the quick of the immediate situation we face in America. If we must suffer these heated public policy debates, shouldn't we at least be able to count efficiency as common ground?

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