What Is the “Ideal” Distribution of Wealth?

March 17, 2013

I’ve seen this video at least four times on facebook. I’d say it has achieved a critical mass of re-posts to warrant some sort of comment. The topic is America’s calamitous distribution of wealth, and the fear and loathing it should allegedly strike in the hearts of poor and middle-class Americans. Here is the video:

My attempts to find an organizational source with further information for this video have failed. Politizane‘s YouTube account appears to be the video’s origin, although others have re-posted it. As of this writing, no other videos appear under that name.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Passive Voice: Who, exactly, “needs” to reward the wealthy for their “risks”?

February 18, 2013

“Consider all of your words. Many of them name deeds or states that are possible only to human beings. When you use them, attach them to persons. Give names and addresses wherever possible.” ~ Richard Mitchell, “The Underground Grammarian”

On facebook today, a warm and empathetic statement from a socialist/anarchist (I think) friend of mine, whom I respect greatly for his willingness to talk through the tough issues and consider opposing points of view:

Who, exactly, "needs" to reward the wealthy for their "risks"?

Who, exactly, “needs” to reward the wealthy for their “risks”?

We libertarians catch a lot of flak, much of it well deserved, for being insufficiently empathetic with the poor and their plight. I therefore try to approach comments like this with due care. Even so, economic reality is what it is. I can’t change it, and I have to tell it like it is.

In this particular instance, my friend, or the person whom he heard talk, has obscured economic reality through the passive voice. I encounter this unfortunate obscurant frequently. It radiates like a beacon in my mind’s eye, revealing the presence of muddled and incomplete thought.  Read the rest of this entry »

Barry Schwartz: Analysis paralysis and the ‘paradox of choice’ justify wealth redistribution

February 4, 2013

I’ve heard it said before that too much choice can be harmful for people. I’m thinking primarily of Sheena Iyengar’s TEDTalk of July, 2010, The Art of Choosing, in which she said at about 10:38:

But for Eastern Europeans [who were acclimating to freer markets after the fall of communism], the sudden availability of all these consumer products on the marketplace was a deluge. They were flooded with choice before they could protest that they didn’t know how to swim. When asked, “What words and images do you associate with choice?” Gregors from Warsaw said, “Ah. For me it is fear. There are some dilemmas, you see. I am used to no choice.” Bodin, from Kiev, said in response to how he felt about the new consumer marketplace, “It is too much. We do not need everything that is there.” …

When someone can’t see how one choice is unlike another, or when there are too many choices to compare and contrast, the process of choosing can be confusing and frustrating. Instead of making better choices, we become overwhelmed by choice, sometimes even afraid of it. Choice no longer offers opportunities, but imposes constraints. It’s not a marker of liberation, but of suffocation by meaningless minutia. In other words, choice can develop into the very opposite of everything it represents in America, when it is thrust up on those who are insufficiently prepared for it.

Her point is well taken that a sudden overabundance of choice can be confusing and frustrating to those whose decision-making faculties have been stunted by years of repression, but her attitude is convoluted. Choice is not the villain here. Choice was not “thrust upon those who were insufficiently prepared for it”. Rather, a cadre of communist despots thrust the absence of choice on those people by force, thereby causing their impreparation for what, in freer countries, is simply the state of nature.  Read the rest of this entry »