According to American progressives, economic inequality is a social-justice problem for which income redistribution is a necessary political solution. In this Encounter Broadside, James Piereson sets the moral question about income redistribution to one side and focuses on a more practical question, whether government can do it well. He answers that it cannot.
“[T]he progressive case is based upon a significant fallacy,” he writes; “it assumes that the U.S. government is actually capable of redistributing income from the wealthy to the poor. For reasons of policy, tradition, and institutional design, this is not the case. Whatever one may think of inequality, redistributive fiscal policies are unlikely to do much to reduce it, a point that the voters seem instinctively to understand.” Politicians, on the other hand—and unfortunately—seem not to understand this.
As a broadside, Piereson’s argument is short and suggestive, rather than long and definitive. Nonetheless, it outlines the case for believing that even were redistribution moral—which it isn’t—it would fail to achieve its aims. Thus, it should be rejected as public policy.
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