“Envy is an unsound basis for government policy”

Don Boudreaux says it well:

Here’s my summary take on this issue [income inequality]: unless someone steals from you, you have no business fretting over how much money that person has relative to how much money you have.  If you insist, absent any such thievery, on fretting over such a thing, you are deeply immature, excessively materialistic, and obnoxiously antisocial – and, thus, unworthy of having your opinions taken seriously by serious people.  (Envy is an unsound basis not only for government policy but also for personal ethics.)  And if someone did steal from you, then what you should fret about is that person’s thievery rather than about his or her monetary wealth relative to your own.  After all, if the thief’s theft raised his or her income to a level more in line with your own, you surely wouldn’t shrug and excuse the thievery on the grounds that it helped to equalize incomes – and you’d be appalled if the police did such shrugging.

Who deserves some help?

I’m looking forward to reading Bryan Caplan’s follow-up to his post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame. In the follow-up, he plans to explore what that implies about government and personal behavior.

This topic baffles me. When kept in the abstract, people seem to default to an attitude that ‘something must be done to help’ because people are poor ‘through no fault of their own.’

But, when you start talking about specific people, Caplan’s logic tends to override that abstract reasoning.

But, few people backtrack and wonder how many people really fall into that abstract “through no fault of their own.”

Update: Here’s Bryan’s follow-up post, Poverty: The Stages of Blame Applied. He makes good points.

Minimum wage doesn’t have much effect on those making less than minimum wage

Some economists believe increases in the minimum wage will have ‘little or no effect on employment.’

That’s possible. People who aren’t productive enough to make minimum wage will still be able to find sub-minimum wage work and those people won’t show up in unemployment statistics since they are not looking for a job.

Some sub-minimum wage jobs are legal. If you are self-employed, you don’t have to make minimum wage. A buddy of mine once owned a used car lot. While he was a staunch advocate of a minimum wage, his sales people were ‘self-employed’, so he wouldn’t have to pay them the minimum wage if they didn’t sell cars.

Also, unpaid internships and grad students often make less than minimum wage.

Some sub-minimum wage jobs aren’t legal. Many drugs are illegal, but somehow they are readily available everywhere.

So, in other words, while economists use the argument that a minimum wage hike will have ‘little or no effect on employment,’ they don’t come right out and that’s because those who ignore it already will continue to do so, as drugs will continue to be sold.

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