Monday, December 8, 2008

The admirable (?) honesty of Paul Krugman

Two quotations from the end of The Conscience of a Liberal that affected me, apparently, quite differently than they did my liberal/progressive friends. (What a surprise!)

Quotation one:

I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

The key question: who, exactly, decides what is too wealthy or too poor? And since Krugman so idolizes the egalitarian nature of other western societies with extensive welfare states (Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan), let's just see how many billionaires Forbes can find around the world:

Argentina: 1
Australia: 14
Austria: 4
Belgium: 2
Belize: 1
Brazil: 18
Canada: 25
Chile: 4
China (!): 42
Colombia: 2
Cyprus: 2
Czech Republic: 1
Denmark: 1
Egypt: 4
France: 14
Germany: 59
Greece: 4
Hong Kong: 26
Iceland: 2
India: 53
Indonesia: 4
Ireland: 6
Israel: 9
Italy: 1
Japan: 11
Kazakhstan: 6
Kuwait: 4
Lebanon: 6
Malaysia: 8
Mexico: 10
Monaco: 1
Netherlands: 5
New Zealand: 4
Nigeria: 1
Norway: 4
Oman: 1
Philippines: 2
Poland: 6
Portugal: 4
Romania: 2
Russia: 87
Saudi Arabia: 13
Singapore: 5
South Africa: 4
South Korea: 12
Spain: 18
Sweden (!!): 10
Switzerland: 9
Taiwan: 7
Thailand: 3
Turkey: 35
Ukraine: 7
United Arab Emirates: 6
United Kingdom: 35
United States: 469
Venezuela: 2

Total billionaires outside US: 628
Total billionaires EU (+Great Britain): 174
The list of the world's 25 wealthiest people includes only 4 from the US, but 7 from Russia, and 7 from the EU

What's interesting about this list is that apparently no industrialized nation on Earth considers a billion dollars too much wealth for its citizens to possess, and that in even the most confiscationist, assertively egalitarian states like China or Sweden have generated billionaires. Krugman would no doubt suggest that this means confiscationist taxation doesn't prevent the amassing of wealth; I would suggest that it proves that the super-rich are essentially immune to national schemes of taxation.

(This category would include #97--George Soros [$9 billion]; #463--Oprah Winfrey [$2.5 billion]; #785--Marc Rich [$1.5 billion].)

Quotation number two:

The notion, beloved of political pundits, that we can make progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish. On health care reform, which is the first domestic priority for progressives, there’s no way to achieve a bipartisan compromise between Repulbicans who want to strangle Medicare and Democrats who want guaranteed health insurance for all.

Here, essentially, Krugman is either saying that for some political/social ends justify the means; or that in order to achieve social justice we cannot afford an effective political opposition that requires compromise; or at least that virtually everybody who is not a liberal/progressive can and should be safely stereotyped as un-American.

Some conscience.

This is the man who argues that, even as a political philosophy, conservatism is grounded in racism, and that individual virtue (saving and budgeting as opposed to rampant consumerist spending) must be regulated by the government lest it become public vice, and ruins the economy.

The real danger of Paul Krugman's ideological extremism--which is a far cry from the liberalism of the New Deal that he purports to adore--is that he has adopted the exact counterpart of the worst of social conservative exterminationist talk: our political opponents are not American citizens with different opinions to be respected, but enemies to be vanquished.

Yep, some conscience.

Everybody who disagrees with me is a racist plutocrat who wants children to starve and die.

Oh well, at least he's honest.


John Famularo said...

Once someone has more money than he can spend directly on himself the rest is either spent in employing other people or sitting in a bank or stuffed in his mattress.

If it is stuffed in his mattress it is out of circulation and is certainly not depriving anyone of shelter or sustenance. If it is in the bank it is lent out to others to finance homes or businesses.

The only way a wealthy person can deprive others of shelter or sustenance is to directly employ people to destroy food, goods and property, or to employ people to do useless tasks at a higher salary than they could get at doing other useful and productive tasks. It seems that governments are much more likely to counter productive things than any individual person of wealth, even an insane one.

Hube said...

That's precisely why the DE Liberal clique loves Krugman so.