Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's the matter with Rich Liberals?

Derek Thompsonn, in an Atlantic blog, argues that rich people who support higher taxes are just a befuddling as Thomas Frank's Kansans, I am not so sure.

If people are at all introspective, they will recognize that fortune can be fleeting--that anyone can get a bad draw. Catastrophe call befall anyone, because of illness, because of natural disaster, because of unexpected changes in business conditions. For example, while it is possible that the demise of the newspaper industry was foreseeable many years ago, I am not sure that it is likely. As a result, many people who thought themselves secure in their work are now being laid off.

We can think of taxes as being both user fees and as insurance premiums. Social Insurance helps the rich--as well as their parents and children--survive at a minimum living standard even if the world turns on them. While we all like to think we have some control over our lives--and to some extent we do--we are also all subject to chance, and for some of us, it is good to know there is a society that cares about the misfortune of others should we encounter a bad draw.

Certainly some rich people are also motivated by altruism and their desire to repay a country that had given them so many great opportunities. But people pay all sorts of insurance premiums; to some extent, taxes are another.


Anonymous said...

I've never understood why rich liberals can't be explained away by a higher preference for collectively provided goods. One of the things I constantly try to point out to real estate students is that their land values are intimately tied to the successes and failures of collective investments in the city, such as in placemaking, etc.

Of course, I didn't think the What's the Matter with Kansas book was particularly compelling. We have all sorts of reasons to suspect, especially in the US, that voters do not vote their pocketbooks.

Anonymous said...

"We can think of taxes as being both user fees and as insurance premiums."

Well, no, because you can avoid a user fee by avoiding the activity but there are large segments of government that one can go through life without ever encountering yet still one pays taxes for them. Nor are such activities described as insurance. A rural taxpayer still has to pay taxes needed to cover the mass transit portion of the budget, and an urban taxpayer still has to pay for the share represented by ag subsidies and the interstate highways. We all have to pay for war activities even when we didn't use the war and many of us never wanted it. Any correspondence between your taxes and what you use is coincidental. Ergo, there is little correlation between the taxes one pays and the benefits one gets.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to be liberal ... with other people's money!

Patricia said...

The rich are fellow humans. Surely some of them have empathy and conscience.
Aside from that, if they are smart, they realize that their own welfare is tied to that of the rest of the population. They depend on other people being able to buy their stuff.

workhard said...

There are a lot of people out there who get into the shoes of the not so fortunate ones.

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