I don’t want to rehash liber-al-terianism again because I think the recent discussions in the blogosphere reached a reasonable conclusion that liber-al-terianism is designed more to clean the libertarian house and convert liberals to a more effective approach to our (perceived-to-be) common goals. I firmly endorse that. But after reading this entry from Matt Yglesias, I’m reminded of one reason why I think the latter goal is forever doomed to failure.
… the more it looks like a huge swathe of the big money game was just an elaborate fraud, the more an undercurrent of respect for the very boldness and criminality of Madoff’s fraud comes through. He plead guilty in a court of law, while the architects of Citibank’s bankruptcy remain wildly wealthier than the average American—people who no doubt would be completely competent to destroy a major business as well as anyone else—slinking around somewhere and various finance types skulk around the streets of New York feeling sorry for themselves because congress might screw around with their bonuses.
If one of the more prominent liberal voices in America believes that Madoff’s fraud is comparable to the financial sector’s problems, there is no common ground to share. There is no liberal receptivity to libertarian ideas. Liberals think libertarians hold up failed corporate executives who run to the government for welfare as Randian heroes, so witnessing them be wrong on multiple issues shouldn’t surprise.
Nor does this give me hope if we could find such ground (emphasis added):
… On the one hand you have people basically inclined toward Hiltzik’s that a lot of the people making the big bucks for the past 10 years are basically scammers who lucked into the ability to siphon tons of money out of the economy without really doing anything useful or valuable, and between people who think that they’re genuinely smart hard-working people who just happen to deserve to pay somewhat more in income taxes than they currently do.
Under our current tax system, there are people who should pay more. They are the people who receive more in services than they pay in taxes. That is unfairness and inequality in our system. We should remove such welfare for those who don’t truly need it.
But that’s not what he means. The highest earners – who already pay most of the income taxes in America – deserve to pay “somewhat” more. He never states why someone who already pays a higher percentage of her income than most deserves to pay more, so I’ll infer. As he states in another post:
If you think of a talented and ambitious businessman, after all, you have to remember that you’re talking about a guy who, unlike normal people, mainly focuses his life on earning as much money as possible. That’s a weird state of mind in many ways. …
Teachers, janitors, steel workers, cab drivers, engineers, waitresses, and journalists, those are the noble people who are interested in how they serve, not how much they make? They’re so noble they’d turn down a higher wage?
Until liberals understand that subjective economic factors and outcomes are relevant only to the parties involved, I’ll see liberals as little more than central planner wannabes. They’re roadblocks. The current political power structure in America offers no incentive for cooperation. Liberals won’t bother, so libertarians shouldn’t waste the effort.