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Tales of Redistribution

By Matthew Yglesias on October 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

"Tales of Redistribution"

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Robert Frank offers an anecdote:

Some months ago, I was asked to join a panel to review The National Council on Economic Education’s curriculum standards for the teaching of essential principles of economics, a task not normally entrusted to Marxists. On a conference call last Friday, the panel debated the Council’s content standards, including Content Standard 16, which reads in part,

There is an economic role for government in a market economy whenever the benefits of a government policy outweigh its costs. Governments often provide for national defense, address environmental concerns, define and protect property rights, and attempt to make markets more competitive. Most government policies also redistribute income.

Discussion focused on a proposal by one of the panel members to change “Most” to “Many” in the last sentence of this standard. I asked whether anyone could think of a government policy that didn’t entail at least some degree of direct or indirect redistribution of income. No one could, which is hardly surprising, since government policies are paid for by taxes and create benefits and costs that generally fall unevenly on different people.

In other words, to say that Barack Obama favors the redistribution of income is to say that, like John McCain, he doesn’t favor completely dismantling the federal government.

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