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April 17, 2008

Comments

Tom

Indeed. Is economic disparity important? Maybe at the extremes. But the welfare and standard of living of the poor does not track inversely proportional to economic disparity; the poor are not necessarily better off if they are closer to the rich. Most of the time when economic disparity severely decreases it's because everyone is worse off. Appealing to and provoking class envy is really an appalling political maneuver, as bad as appealing to nationalism or fear. Democrats are guilty of the former, and Republicans are guilty of the latter. Libertarians aren't guilty of either, and that's probably why they will never pose a serious political threat.

Nathan Smith

I think I agree with Tom's substantive point (although blaming Republicans for appealing to nationalism needs to be qualified; nationalism is only bad in some ways and some contexts, and not all Republicans are guilty of bad forms of nationalism). I don't think Milton Friedman is appealing to, or encouraging, *envy*. It's possible to lament the poverty of the poor without resenting, or caring about, or indeed while celebrating, the prosperity of the affluent. And to be indignant about policies that keep the poor poor.

James

"Most of the time when economic disparity severely decreases it's because everyone is worse off."

That is just factually untrue. Economic disparity was much lower in the post-war years than today, even though everyones income was rising rapidly. Conversely, the rich getting richer does NOT track well with the poor and middle class getting richer.

"Friedman shows that statist policies are favoring the middle class at the expense of the poor"

That would seem preferable to policies which favor the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class, as advocated by so many "libertarians".

Nathan Smith

"'Friedman shows that statist policies are favoring the middle class at the expense of the poor'... That would seem preferable to policies which favor the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class, as advocated by so many 'libertarians'."

Well, Friedman would beg to differ, and he makes a pretty good case. Vouchers, for example, would favor the rich a bit, the poor a lot, and most of the middle class to a degree that is hard to know exactly, at the expense of middle-class unionized teachers. It's hard to generalize about the distributional effects of libertarian policies because it differs policy by policy. But I think it's most common that libertarian policies benefit the rich *and* the poor at the expense of some sub-section of the middle class. And actually, I challenge anyone to offer an example of a libertarian policy that really hurts the poor. There may be some, but the perception that this is the case seems to me to usually be wrong.

Nato

"That is just factually untrue. Economic disparity was much lower in the post-war years than today, even though everyones income was rising rapidly."

Income disparity dropped *during* WWII during which there was fairly strict rationing and the quality of life declined dramatically in terms of available economic goods. So, the lower post-war income disparity was at best compatible with the post-war boom, which took place in a labor-poor environment.

The greatest leap in disparity since was in the 1987-1989 time frame, when per-capita GDP also grew rapidly, but not unprecedentedly so.

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I think that you should add some images or videos.

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