Thursday, January 02, 2014

How Not To Defend Free Markets

Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal, tries to argue against efforts of increased government redistribution by saying that in nominal terms, incomes of poor Americans have risen sharply since 1979.

It should be obvious that this is faulty reasoning. If nominal income change was equivalent to genuine economic progress, then Weimar Germany in 1923 and Zimbabwe in 2009 are the two biggest success stories in modern history., so it is all too easy for leftists to present this as evidence of economic ignorance of free market advocates.

There are by the way many valid arguments against economic redistribution through taxation and spending even if it is established as a fact that inequality in America has increased since 1979 (which i by the way do think is an established fact). That means more specifically pointing out the extent to which this increase is due to government interventions and that the best way to deal with it is by abolishing these interventions, and also pointing out that increased inequality is not necessarily a problem.

This reminds me of a debate i had with a reader on my Swedish language blog, who insisted that the proper way to gauge politicians is by looking at nominal change of government spending during their terms in office . Presumably, he thought (maybe subconsciously ) that by presenting the change in government spending as more expansionary than it actually was, then that would establish a standard which would make politicias hold back more on spending.

But using misleading standards is not a good strategy. That is because even if you have a dubious "the end justifies the means" ethics regarding such matters, it won't work, because then you give your opponents the advantage of representing the truth, something they will use to defeat you unless they have really stupid representatives. And that is not something I think we should rely on as a strategy.


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