Thursday, May 18, 2006

Redistribution: Round Two

My husband and I have been hard at it today. We're widening our driveway and putting in a garage. (I call it a garage, but anyone who knows us will cry foul and tell us to call it what it is--a shop.) We've reached the age where we have a little more money, and a lot less energy, so we're doing something we've never done before. We're hiring the shop built. There's still a lot of prep work to be done, though, and we can't afford to hire it all done, so we're putting our middle-aged bodies through the wringer a bit, reminding ourselves that we ought to be grateful for the exercise. People pay money for this kind of workout!!

Anyway, I'm taking a break from the exercise regimen for a few minutes, so I just got a chance to read the second part of the series at TCS Daily by Tim Worstall about a simplified system for the redistribution of wealth that I posted about last week. It boils down to eliminating all forms of welfare in our country, and replacing them all with a $10,000 check to every citizen 21 or older whose income falls below a certain threshold. You can find my post here, and his original article here. Last week's discussion was addressing the inevitable objections from the right side of the political spectrum, and why the new system would be an improvement over the old. Today's looks at how the left will respond to such a notion, and why they should be jumping on the bandwagon.

Unlike the conservative element, which is liable to respond favorably to reduction in bureaucracy, but object to the notion of handing money to people who don't earn it, the progressive argument is liable to be the reverse--no problem with the handing out money part, but a big problem with losing control over who gets it, and how it's spent. Worstall says that how the notion is received by liberal politicians will be a big indicator of what their motives are. Do they actually want to help people get out of poverty, or do they want to keep holding the purse strings?

Worstall points out the two main advantages to the proposed system that the sympathetic progressive ought to embrace. He says the Plan "increases equality of opportunity and inverts the perceived power imbalance between labor and capital." He argues that being handed lump sums of money could open doors for the less advantaged to escape the poverty trap.

There are indeed those born into, through no fault of their own, positions where climbing up out of poverty is almost impossible. There are many different possible ways of helping them but the most efficient is simply to make cash grants to all. Everyone, therefore, has the basics for survival and can turn their attentions and efforts to whatever it is that they wish. Those who seek education, an improvement in life can do so, those happy to laze on the porch can, as well. But what the Plan might do is to make it possible for all to unlock their potential, if they should so wish.
He goes on to discuss Marxian theory, and the outcome of taking power out of the hands of the employer/oppressor.

In Marx's original analysis, still fervently believed by some today, capital will ever conspire against labor and attempt to engender a situation where there is a large reserve army of the unemployed. These unfortunates will have no option but to sell their labor at whatever miniscule price the oppressors are willing to offer, leading to ever fatter profits and the ever increasing immiseration of the proletariat.

If that is, indeed, the view of the world people really believe in, then The Plan is actually the answer. By providing an unconditional grant sufficient to survive upon, this "power structure" is subverted. The unemployed cannot be forced to accept lower wages for they can survive with none.

Worstall's conclusion is that those liberals who really want to make the world better will support the idea of simplifying the redistribution process, taking the money right to the people. The rest will show by their reluctance the true nature of their aims--power and money. His argument is a bit more complex than this, but this should give you the basics. His two essays combined make for an interesting analysis, and I find a good deal of merit to the notion that if the government is going to hand out money, it might as well do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

As I contemplate going back outside to fill another wheelbarrow full of dirt, I find myself thinking about the relationship between money and opportunity. I know that if I had more money, I would have the opportunity to hire someone else to wield the shovel I'm about to pick up. Of course, then I'd have to hire a personal trainer.

1 comment:

  1. Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.