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October 27, 2008

Applied Economics

Sadly, I happen to agree with every single thing Grim says here.

The problem is that labeling Obama a socialist is (I believe) counterproductive for the reasons cited in my prior post, and also for another rather startling reason: many, many Americans happen to agree with Obama that redistributing the wealth is a worthy policy goal.

Many, many Americans believe - as Paul Krugman does - that income inequality is the single biggest problem facing America today, and if you doubt how easily that position can be made to sound entirely reasonable and desireable, click here for a real eye-opener:

AS IS my custom in early September I made my annual pilgrimage to France – this time to the north coast of Brittany.

As always I was struck by the cleanness, the sense of order and the general air of comfort and material wealth.

This contrasts markedly with my first impression of the country when I visited on a school- organised exchange in 1954.

To a 13-year-old from the North of England, the country looked run down and the people looked poor.

Now everyone looks as if they have money in the bank, or even under the bed, and enough to spare for luxuries – and this includes the elderly.

France is an innately rich country. But part of its formula for the good life is its adoption of the so-called Rhenish or social model of capitalism, which facilitates the redistribution of wealth through the social security system to the poor, the unemployed and the retired.

In the global league table of wealth distribution, France fares rather better than the UK and the other so-called Anglo-Saxon economies, which have adopted a more market-driven model.

This is why, in my earlier post, I talked of two competing visions for America. What Obama, with his talk of "hope" and "change", continually glosses over is these two visions are diametrically opposed. You cannot unify people who see America's future in completely different terms, except possibly by alerting them to the possibility that an idea which sounds wonderful in the abstract may affect them in concrete ways they may find unacceptable:

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept.

He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to
redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the
homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the
server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The
homeless guy was grateful.

It's easy to be in favor of redistributing the wealth... so long as it doesn't decrease the amount of money in your wallet.

Posted by Cassandra at October 27, 2008 08:26 AM

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Comments

I would have redistributed it back to myself which shows how far removed from reality I am. By the way, isn't France one of the countries that routinely kills it's elderly population during the summer hot months? As I recall, during the month of August most of the young population migrates to the MED leaving the "Geezer Patrol" home in the city with no air conditioning. The "Golden Oldies" presumably bide the time away watching the French dubbed version of Soylent Green as the sybarites at the Cote d' Azur congratulate each other on their small carbon footprint.

C'est si Bon?

Posted by: vet66 at October 27, 2008 11:04 AM

Here's the reason "many, many Americans" feel that redistribution is a good idea.

1) They seem to have more wealth than they really can spend. Even when their bank account is empty, that's not the end of their wealth, but only the beginning: there are credit cards. Lots of them. And home refinancing loans that can repay those credit card balances. And then the home can be refinanced again! And then...

2) They are cognizant that there are people in this country who don't have quite such vast, apparently unlimited wealth, and,

3) They are cognizant that they did nothing whatsoever to earn access to "vast, apparently unlimited wealth."

Therefore:

Redistribution looks like a good idea. It balances the moral scale somewhat -- if we're giving poor people wealth they didn't earn, well, all this credit-based wealth wasn't earned either. It's just kind of there. Why shouldn't this magical money tree be available to everyone?

(Here enter Freddie and Fannie, and all those "loans for everyone!" schemes we've seen so much of lately.)

There's no sense that there is any other moral duty involved, because the money has been so free for so long it seems like it just comes out of thin air.

This is the world of the post-graduate studies liberal; it's Barack Obama's world, except in his case it's informed by a lifetime of study with socialists and actual Communists. It's his wife's world.

It's not mine, but I've seen enough of it to recognize it. It's a worldview so completely insulated from the real source of money and wealth -- and so far removed from the perils that rise when the systems break down -- as to be completely blind.

Posted by: Grim at October 27, 2008 12:04 PM

"Perils that rise when the systems break down."

Well said. I usually counter the argument by suggesting that I will not be working weekends anymore for overtime and will retire early. I will live on a budget and pay cash for everything but my home which I will pay of as soon as possible by foregoing that 52" plasma TV and a $5,000 trip to Hawaii. I also plan on dying in this house, GOD willing. It is called living within my means and being happy about it.

I believe in the silent majority that is conservative in their spending habits. This election will show if they are in the majority or minority. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My parents would sometimes reply to my request for higher allowance by saying I should just go out back and pull some money from the money tree. Then I was told to get a job if the money they were providing wasn't enough. That taught me, and most of the rest of us, the value of hard work and the money it accrued.

Then I got drafted but that is an entirely different story with entirely different values. My absence did increase the wealth of my parents though. They did the "Jefferson" and sang "Movin' on up" as the kids left the nest. LOL

Never did find the money tree...

Posted by: vet66 at October 27, 2008 12:46 PM

It's easy to be in favor of redistributing the wealth... so long as it doesn't decrease the amount of money in your wallet.

This whole issue reminds me so much of that scene in Atlas Shrugged (hey, I was once an impressionable adolescent) where the guy on the train is telling the story of John Galt. He gets to the part where the factory owner announces the company is going the "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs" route and confesses that all the employees thought it was a good idea because each one of them believed they would be among the ones who got - not the ones who gave. Or, more pithily, you can't con an honest man.

Posted by: Elise at October 27, 2008 12:48 PM

But you CAN con a dishonest man. :)

Having been to France a few times in the last 8 years, I can find a lot of amusement in the link above.
The last few times I was in Paris, I actually found it rather dirty and run down, compared to the first few times eight years ago. All those subtle, nuanced reflections of a more just 'capitalism' depend on that captitalist goose continuing to lay the golden eggs, regardless of how stupidly the government squanders it.

I think we are all about ready to find out just what kind of country this has become. The important thing now is not to avert your eyes or lose your nerve. There is no where else to go, and there is no "Galt's Gulch" to emigrate to.

We will have most of the popular culture and news media against us. It may be that many who have blogs will lose them as domain names are stricken for some 'technicality', such as what happened to Patterico. A significant number of our cherished 'negative' freedoms will be under assault in various and subtle ways.

This is not paranoia. This is clear-eyed realism of the shape of things to come. The Left is motivated by revenge and envy, among other things.

They will be getting even for
1) the Bush years (1989-1993) and 2001-2009
2) the Republican majority in the House from 1995 - 2007
3) the Reagan years (my wife's cousin and my brother in law rail about what an a** Reagan was all the time)
4) Everything else

As Samuel Jackson said in Jurassic Park, "Hold onto your butts"

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 27, 2008 01:32 PM

My sitemeter showed a lot of people coming from your site and I finally figured out how.

Right now, I'm trying to get a soldier in Iraq to get his ballot...he applied on time, nothing there, his vote won't be counted. Another woman commented, too, saying she'd done all the right things for her deployed husband, no ballot in time.

Something's up folks...we're losing our country.

(by the way, the French do not routinely kill their elderly,m as suggested in a comment above)...I lived there four years, in Paris, and this was something that should never have happened, but neither should much of our delayed response to Katrina. They take amazing care of their elderly, and their families do more than most of ours do here for them, too.

I predict that we won't recognize this country in two years. we have to fight, but it's hard to fight the media, too.

Posted by: z at October 27, 2008 02:16 PM

many, many Americans happen to agree with Obama that redistributing the wealth is a worthy policy goal.

Of course redistribution of wealth is a worthy policy goal, Cass. What world have you been living on?

Transfering 80% of Teresa Heinz's money, along with Howard Dean, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, John Murtha's, and actors like Tom Cruise (But not Hanks or Sinise) to people like me is perfectly moral and ethical people.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 27, 2008 02:19 PM

I lived there four years, in Paris, and this was something that should never have happened, but neither should much of our delayed response to Katrina.

1. FEMA wasn't designed to hold local state's hands in emergencies from day 1.

2. France's universal healthcare system was supposed to do just that, cradle to grave. THey got the grave part down, at least.

Both problems originated through policies that the Democrat party favors. In Katrina it was the MSM's ghoul hunting tricks and Democrat Governors and Mayors in Louisiana. In France it was the socialized healthcare system that ended up being a very efficient way to exterminate the inconvenient and the weak.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 27, 2008 02:22 PM

and their families do more than most of ours do here for them, too.

That would make sense given that government employees will ditch the grandfather cause 1. he ain't theirs and 2. the state isn't paying the doctors to stick around past a couple of maximum hours per year/week.

I predict that we won't recognize this country in two years. we have to fight, but it's hard to fight the media, too.

We're like a guerrilla force trying to throw off the occupation. Which is an interesting departure from most of America's current wars of the occupying force fighting an insurgency full of criminals and terrorists (combined with foreign state support).

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 27, 2008 02:24 PM

Good luck, "z" - Fairfax County in Va. has already thrown out 200 military ballots for no very good reason (changes on the federal form made it inconsistent with a state requirement - other counties figured that one out and waved the requirement for overseas ballots).

Ymar, I don't think anyone in France meant to kill their elderly.

I do think that what happened there (like what happened here with Katrina) illustrates some of the dangers of dependency on government.

People "assume someone" will take care of things - "assume" the risk. Any person who trusts government to do that sort of thing when it concerns their livelihood or safety is a fool.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 27, 2008 02:57 PM

Why can't we just redistribute my children?

Posted by: spd rdr at October 27, 2008 03:19 PM

Don't get grubby. I AM keeping the dog.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 27, 2008 03:21 PM

D** can come to live with me. He and my 11-year old would get along famously. :)

And I've already got 100 lb of trouble in a yellow Lab.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at October 27, 2008 03:51 PM

Why can't we just redistribute my children?

Is America ready for that much wealth?

Posted by: Cassandra at October 27, 2008 03:59 PM

The Cricket thinks that redistribution of Child Labor Units is a fabuloso idea Whose Time, unfortunately has Not Come.

This would be a cue for some cynical tight-a** liberal to take the light-hearted banter seriously
and pour forth a screed.

Since I am not that liberal, I also ask: Can America handle such richness without government directives, regulations, interventions and Oprah?

*yes, I am in a snit. I can't find my Koji culture to make amazake*

Posted by: Cricket at October 27, 2008 06:31 PM

Okay; I'd never call BHO a socialist, communist definitely but never a "socialist". What's the rub? He is what he is; and this has nothing to do with racism.
As a piece of white-trash of the worst ilk how can he be offended? Is the glass half full or half empty? Prove me wrong and you get a full mea culpa in return express mail by Nov 4.

Posted by: Frank at October 27, 2008 08:19 PM

redistributing the kids is one of the funniest things I've ever heard...great one!!

Right, Cassandra...dependence on gov't is never a good idea.

Did you see the Obama rep tell FOX news this afternoon that "America isn't to the point where a journalist can ask anybody ANYTHING" what?
And that the 2001 audio of Obama talking about redistribution is out there all because of FOX? You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by: z at October 27, 2008 08:38 PM

In the global league table of wealth distribution, France fares rather better than the UK and the other so-called Anglo-Saxon economies, which have adopted a more market-driven model.


Well, duh. If nearly everyone is poor, then the wealth, what little of it there is, is very evenly distributed. They make universal poverty sound like a worthy goal!

Posted by: jms at October 27, 2008 09:11 PM

Cassandra, not even the pro-eugenics people in Paris and British intelligentsia, Cass?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 27, 2008 11:06 PM

Well, jims, Poo Barrymore and Cameron Diaz think universal poverty is fine in third world countries. They actually got to see what it was like to not have to Depend on things and it was cool!

They also think it is a great idea for the rest of us, but when we don't have enough money to take in one of their movies, things will change.

What was the cost of a movie in 1938? A nickel?
What is it now? Ten bucks? How much of a multiple digit place value inflation is that?

Posted by: Cricket at October 28, 2008 12:22 AM

"Ten bucks? How much of a multiple digit place value inflation is that?

Another math test?! Well, crap! I'm still working on the pop quiz from the other post.

Posted by: DL Sly at October 28, 2008 02:58 AM

Two orders of magnitude, Cricket.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 28, 2008 10:59 AM

That "tip the homeless guy" thing has been going around. One of the latest is a cartoon of kids tick'r'treating at a door. The guy says something like "Here's just a little for you. I'm giving the rest to kids who are just too lazy to go door-to-door".

z: "I predict that we won't recognize this country in two years. we have to fight, but it's hard to fight the media, too."

We will if we immigrate from France. (Or probably anywhere in Europe - especially Formerly Great Britain.)

I understand what you said regarding the Paris summer heat wave. But still, France has much to offfer: 30-hour work weeks, lifetime employment, 8% unemployment rate (2007), a new government every few months (or is that Italy?), ...

Distribution of Offspring: now there's an idea whose time is imminent. We could form a Department of Offspring Allocation. After all, there are those poor unfortunate women, who for some reason or another (theirs or their husbands) cannot bring forth young, and decency and fariness dictates that we accomodate their desires. Everbody would be registered upon marriage (let's skip that Other Issue for now), and whenever a child is born, it would be matched up with someone who needs it.

Aren't schools now usurping more and more parental authority and usurping their right to teach their children accoring to their beliefs? In many states, the State has taken away parents' rights to discipline. It's not that big a setp to an Equitable Distribution of the People's Children.

Posted by: ZZMike at October 28, 2008 05:05 PM

I am going on record as saying that if Obama is going to redistribute the wealth, I want my Ladmo bag.

I never got one.

Posted by: Cricket at October 29, 2008 02:10 AM

Transfering 80% of Teresa Heinz's money, along with Howard Dean, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, John Murtha's, and actors like Tom Cruise (But not Hanks or Sinise) to people like me is perfectly moral and ethical...

No matter which 80% of Dean, Kerry, the Boston Beluga, et. al. you pick, you'll still end up with a raw deal.

Progressive Sushi.

Eeeee-yuck...

Posted by: BillT at October 29, 2008 04:10 AM

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