Friday, October 14, 2011

Is this what Republicans are really about?

Europeans have struggled for some time to understand the philosophy of the US Republican party, and especially how it manages to get such popular support in the electorate. On the surface, indeed, it all appears to be a platform that favors the rich at the expense of the more numerous poor, the latter having been indoctrinated for many years that governments are bad and, at the extreme, robber barons are better than a benevolent government. The consequence is a drive to increase inequalities in income and wealth.

John Roemer offers a glimpse into the American ideology for inequality. He says that "American philosophy" sees inequality as ethical, as it gives everyone what nature endows him with. That seems like a very fatalist argument (as in some religions) that ignores that redistribution is about the ex-post insurance of where someone is born. having the luck to be born in a good family and in a good country ought to be taxed to some degree to benefit the unlucky. A second argument is the old trickle-down one: if the most talented can keep all the fruits of their labor, they will work more (never mind decreasing marginal utility of consumption and how redistribution can improve global well-being). The third argument is that the government is good at nothing, and should thus be largely absent.

All these arguments are largely shared in the United States, and especially among Republicans. In fact, the latter are now going much farther in reversing redistribution than ever before. Just see how they they are vehemently opposed to any risk sharing through public health insurance, how they limit school funding and public goods in general. In fact, I am starting to wonder whether the hidden goal is to create a new underclass that would be in some ways reminiscent of the old slavery days. That would be consistent with the opposition to minimum wages, with the large prison population, and with keeping the poor uneducated. That would also be coherent with the Republicans willingness to increase the payroll tax (a flat tax applicable to everyone) while calling for a reduction in the income tax (a progressive tax). I hope I am wrong, though.


Anonymous said...

You could also have mentioned the Republican refusal to help the unemployed, who are disproportionately black.

Anonymous said...

Meh. Its simply a preference for personal autonomy and liberty.

Since you seem to be European I don't expect you to understand those preferences.

Although even for me, the "hard money" (gold) monetary policy is amusing.

Kansan said...

To me, this is latent racism hiding behind the love of liberty and self-reliance, especially among Tea-Partiers. It is more than an absence for compassion, it is a hatred of inferior people, and they are inferior because they are out of luck (being born poor/black/abroad).