Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smart cons for "socialism"

The ever-readable Daniel Larison agrees with Ross Douthat that spreading the wealth isn't socialism:

As I noted before, labeling Obama as the wealth-spreading candidate is not only politically stupid, but philosophically misguided as well. It used to be that conservatives believed and could articulate the belief that market economies were on the whole better at allocating resources and equitably distributing wealth than economies subject to a great deal of state intervention. The time was when broad and even distribution of wealth was a Jeffersonian and conservative goal to provide for a broad class of property-holders as the basis for social and political stability. It was not a description of a left-wing or welfarist plot. So much for that.

I am an advocate of redistributing wealth by using government policy, but I am not a socialist. Well, if I am, I'm some squishy moderate form, like a moderate social democrat, which in the grand scheme of things ain't that far left (though I am as far as this country is concerned). I advocate policies like strong labor and progressive taxation because they work, and because they have a track record of working, but more important is that they work toward my goal of an egalitarian, prosperous America. I don't want to tax rich people more because I hate rich people, as many of them are great people. In other words, tax policy is not a first principle with me, but rather a tool to achieve a first principle. Now, to be fair, that principle is not incompatible with socialism, but I think it's safe to say that my vision of society differs significantly with Karl Marx's vision. In fact, those visions are incompatible. I generally think the free market does an okay job of allocating resources, and I favor some smart safeguards to keep it from overreaching and getting too powerful. Karl Marx believed in public ownership of all industry. These visions are not the same.

Nevertheless, I don't understand how someone can actually be for concentrating wealth in the upper class, which is what McCain seems to be supporting here. What we have here is one of two things: either McCain has no idea what he's saying or what he stands for, and he's just trying to exploit an opportunity. Either that, or he actually favors an upward distribution of wealth. I'm putting my money on option one for now, but it seems like broadly shared prosperity is something that everyone should value, and if conservatives can make a genuinely airtight case for why their way of accomplishing this is better I'm willing to listen. But, advertent or not, right now John McCain seems to be saying that egalitarianism is an undesirable goal. He's actually arguing for aristocracy, in the middle of an economic downturn. Out of touch? No, I'd say he's firmly in touch with the Republican plutocrats that have been running this nation for eight years. I guess we should give them points for being honest with us now.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.