Last month, John Goodman excoriated a Wonkblog piece I wrote, which had Â criticized Greg Mankiwâ€™s defense of the 1%. I argued that Mankiw fails to appreciate what we all owe each other, given our differing roles and resources in a prosperous, interconnected society. I was caring for my dad at the time, and so didnâ€™t have an opportunity to post a proper answer.
You get a flavor of Goodmanâ€™s argument from this passage:
Pollack even individualizes his argument by describing help he got from a tow truck driver at road side. Presumably, the tow truck driver got paid. So there was a mutually beneficial exchange â€• the kind of exchange that is at the heart of the free enterprise system. But Pollack thinks he owes the tow truck driver something more:
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â My taxes help provide his child with subsidized lunches and preschool. I help provide his family with health insurance. Thatâ€™s as it should be. I still get a very good deal. He had my back. I should have his.
But wait a minute. What exactly does he owe the tow truck driver? Does he owe more or less than he owes people living on $1 a day? Or people living on $2 a day? Orâ€¦?
If the tow truck driver has a moral claim against Pollack, we never learn what it isâ€¦.
In some ways this is all very surprising. After all, the 20th century was the century of collectivism. It was the century of communism, socialism, national socialism (fascism) and the welfare state. Each and every one of these isms was devoted to taking from some and giving to others. After all these years and all that misery you would think that someone, somewhere would have perfected an argument for forcible redistribution of income. And yet what we find today at the leftwing blogs is truly pitiful.