Welfare and Wealth Redistribution: Quick Note

I am not promoting socialism but more egalitarianism. A fair and just society should provide for all. That means if you have no skills and can only do menial labor, you should at least be able to live and eat. And you know what, if that means Paris Hilton can̢۪t inherit 100̢۪s of millions from her dad, so be it. What do I really care about that?

I̢۪m not talking about welfare, redistribution of wealth or anything like that.

Man, sometimes comments are a goldmine. The above was part of a larger comment to this post of mine.

So what is interesting about this comment? Well despite the author’s protestations to the contrary, he (or she) is talking precisely about welfare and the redistribution of wealth. Taking wealth (e.g. an inheritance) and giving it to somebody else is the very definition of redistributing wealth. It is also welfare based on the first paragraph.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. mycat says:

    Still the commenter is right in substance. No democracy will, in the long run, allow monstrous amounts of unearned income to be locked in the hands of the undeserving while working people of good character can’t afford health insurance or savings but are still taxed.

    It is revelatory of the values of some Republicans that they see the greater sin in taxing the wealthy than in further impoverishing the working poor through taxation.

    Big part of why I don’t much respect the Republican party: party of Teapot Dome, two Red Scares, Watergate and KStreet.

  2. Bithead says:

    Still the commenter is right in substance. No democracy will, in the long run, allow monstrous amounts of unearned income to be locked in the hands of the undeserving while working people of good character can’t afford health insurance or savings but are still taxed.

    After all, when you call it “taxation” you needn’t call it “theft”, right mycat?

  3. Herb says:

    Mycat:

    If you think only the Republicans are for the wealthy and the Democrats are for the less fortunate, then you have a lot of learning to do and experience to obtain. I think you are kidding yourself if you think that any party, Dems or Reps, are for you. They both are for themselves and keeping it that way. Look at Kerry, a wealthy man in his own right. Kennedy who got his wealth from bootleg boose and is going to keep things as they are.

    Mycat, I bet you are a very young whipper snapper.

  4. RJN says:

    Steve: This is a link to a story from Davos. The subject is a proposal to “unlock” $7 trillion by ripping off the countries that produce wealth and redistributing it through the UN.

    Do you intend to make any remarks about this? It would be nice to read an analysis from a straight shooting economist like yourself.

  5. RJN says:
  6. Mark Jaquith says:

    These types are amusing to watch. They start out simple: “I just don’t want people to starve.” And then it starts to grow.

    “Well, I don’t want anyone to be unemployed.”
    “I’m not a socialist… but I do think that full dental care is a right.”
    “It pisses me off that Paris Hilton gets to inherit all that money while ordinary Americans can’t even afford a television. Television is a right. Not that I’m a socialist or anything.”

    I always just imagine their accent slowly morphing from a normal American accent to a thick Russian accent as they start abandoning their initial “keep people from starving” platform and move on to full-blown socialism. In the end, they’ve left behind the English-with-a-Russian-accent for full blown Russian, but they’re still saying that they’re not socialist.

  7. ken says:

    The truth is that real talented people don’t complain. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, George Soros, Warren Buffet and others like them built their fortunes when the tax rates were much much higher. Steve Verdon, and conservatives like him, cannot get off their rear ends and become productive because the government is always taking to much money from them.

  8. LJD says:

    So by Ken’s logic, apparently ‘Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, George Soros, Warren Buffet and others like them’ would have no problem giving away the entire fortune they have accumulated ‘for the greater good’ of those who ‘cannot get off their rear ends and become productive because the government is always giving too much money to them.’

  9. legion says:

    This is pretty interesting, Steve, but I don’t think we’ve got the focus narrowed enough yet… how ’bout we pitch a specific question based on the comment you pulled:

    Is the concept of unrestricted and untaxed inheritance compatible with the American capitalist system and ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ social ethic?

    I’ll post my own opinions later in the thread…

  10. Steve Verdon says:

    Steve Verdon, and conservatives like him, cannot get off their rear ends and become productive because the government is always taking to much money from them.

    Ken, you are a liar.

  11. McGehee says:

    Is the concept of unrestricted and untaxed inheritance compatible with the American capitalist system and ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ social ethic?

    The idea is that once you earn property, it’s yours to do with as you choose.

    If a person’s property all goes to the government when he dies, was it ever really his in the first place?

  12. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘A fair and just society should provide for all.’

    Society is supposed to provide for me? Then wtf am I working for?

  13. legion says:

    ICM and McG, I think you’re making assumptions that far too many people make in situations like this… that there’s no middle ground between Nothing (no taxation or no social support whatsoever) and All (all production goes to the gov’t or nobody has to lift a finger to work and/or find a job).

    No matter how efficient the gov’t, it’s going to require some sort of income, in the form of taxation, tariffs, etc, to function. And no matter how good the job market, there will be people who can’t get a job (even if they’re trying) or are between jobs & literally can’t survive without some sort of public assistance. Those needs all have to be balanced, and that balance point moves back & forth on a regular basis – the laws have to be constantly re-examined and tweaked to maintain that balance.

    As for bootstrapping, I think it’s a competition between a social ethic of trying to help people who are worse off than us and a more basic psychological drive to keep what we’ve got. A rich man may not want to see other people in pain, but he may not want to see other people get as rich or richer than him – being wealthier than other means having more control over one’s own life. But it’s in his own interests to ensure that there is some sort of ‘safety net’ in existence in case he (or his offspring) ever hit a rough patch; rather like a social insurance policy. Nobody succeeds without gambling a bit, but only a fool takes only ‘all or nothing’ bets…

  14. ICallMasICM says:

    I appreciate your earnestness but outside of Soc 101 concerns about inheritance somehow being unfair are ludicrous. Whenever you see anyone talking about social justice or any of it’s variations what they’re talking about is redistribution. As soon as you or anyone else can figure out social policy that somehow figures out ‘have nots’ from ‘will nots’ and eliminates poverty instead of creating it then I’ll be all for it. Until then no matter how you try to dress it up you’re trying to justify taking other people’s property in the form of taxes and giving it to someone else ‘for the good of society’. As we can all see this really hasn’t been ‘for the good of society’ unless you consider creating a dependent class a good thing.