Exhausted by economic analysis, Paul Krugman has decided to stump from another pulpit these days. See here: A Tale of Two Moralities (via interfluidity).
Ah, the moral high ground...how intoxicating! The conscience of a liberal...I am reminded of Gordon Liddy's gem:
A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, a debt which he proposes to pay off with your money.According to Krugman, there is a "great divide" in America today. What defines this boundary?
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
There’s no middle ground between these views.Is this really an accurate characterization? To me, the divide seems to be defined more over the issue of who (or what body of institutions) should be trusted with the job of redistributing wealth. On the left, we have those who believe that a central authority is best suited for this job. On the right, we have those who believe that local governments, or private philanthropic institutions, are better suited for this job.
I do not believe that those with a libertarian streak (like myself) appreciate being demonized for, say, opposing a tax hike by the central government. I might oppose such a tax and at the same time favor a tax hike at the state or local level (if I thought the funds are to be put to good use). I might be against a tax hike altogether, and be in favor of redistributing existing government expenditures away from the military and to the disadvantaged. Or, I might just want to keep more of my money so that I have greater control over how to disburse it among competing charities. The "liberal" attempt to construe any of these positions as "immoral" along some dimension is, well, simply shameful, I think.