Monday, October 04, 2010

On the Redistribution of Wealth

Before asking "Should government redistribute wealth?" one should ask "can big government effectively redistribute wealth?"

If big central government is not effective at redistributing wealth, then the question of whether or not is should engage in the activity is pointless.

Big government has the predictable effect of centralizing markets. This centralization of the market gives a small number of insiders control of things. The insiders dominating the system become rich and powerful, while the masses languish.

The idea that a really big government will create an economy with an even distribution of the nation's wealth is foolish, because wealth tends to follow power. The consolidation of power invariably leads to concentration of wealth.

Conservatives would win the argument on the size of government if they switched the debate from "Should the government redistribute wealth?" to "Can the government effectively redistribute wealth?"

This observation immediately brings up the question: Why don't they do this?

Instead of posing the winning arguments, rich conservatives have some strange compulsion to put on clown suits and tromp around on stage complaining about their taxes.

I've wondered why conservatives consistently push such a weak argument.

My fear is that some conservatives avoid shifting the debate from "Should" to "Can" because the statement "Central government is a bad tool for redistributing wealth" begs the question of "If big government can't do the job, then what can?"

The answer, of course, is decentralization. Just as centralizing the market concentrates wealth. Decentralizing the markets opens up opportunities for those outside the power centers. Decentralization of the markets would effectively redistribute wealth.

We already have a highly centralized market with massive concentrations of wealth. It is possible that some conservatives want to preserve the imbalances of the status quo, with its centralized markets and inequitable distribution of wealth.

I dislike using the term "conservative" in discussions about the free market, because the term is nebulous. It is impossible to tell what the self-described conservative is trying to conserve. Is the self-described conservative fighting to restore a free market, or is the conservative trying to preserve existing power structures?

The vast majority of people calling themselves conservative really want to restore the free market. The minority of conservatives who want to preserve the centralized markets are able to pull the strings which undermine the efforts of the people.

To recap:

The problem I see is that regulations from big government have created a highly centralized market. This highly centralized market artificially concentrates wealth in a corrupt ruling class.

Simply deregulation a highly centralized market is problematic. When one tries this the power brokers in the centralized market run amok … to the detriment of us all. Restoring the free market requires both deregulation and decentralization. Deregulating a highly centralized economy leads to an even worse mess.

Defenders of the free market have a nasty habit of skirting the distribution of wealth issue. Rather than trying to divert attention from the inequitable distribution of wealth, free marketeers would be wise to change tact and take the issue square on by pointing out that big government tends to centralize markets and concentrates wealth.

This new tact, however, tells us that to restore the free market, we need to both deregulate and decentralize.

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The MS&L

I should point out that the Medical Savings and Loan combines deregulation and decentralization.

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