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‘Fairness,’ They Say



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In Impromptus today, I quote a Dan Hannan column (brilliant) and take a little walk down Memory Lane. Hannan writes,

Would you rather live in a 1000 square foot house where everyone else’s was 800, or a 1200 square foot house where everyone else’s was 1400? I sometimes think it’s the most elemental question in politics. Where we stand on equality versus prosperity depends, more than we usually admit, on personality traits rather than logic. We start with an intuitive feel for what makes sense, and we elevate that instinct into a principle.

I say,

This reminded me of something I thought about long ago, when I was figuring out what I believed, politically. It was during the Reagan years. Reagan and his people had proven that, with a lowering of tax rates, revenues could increase.

I said to people, “If you knew that the lowering of tax rates would increase revenue, would you favor the lower rates?” They said, “Lower rates would not produce more revenue. That’s ridiculous.” I said, “I know you believe that. But just play a hypothetical game with me: If you knew, to a certainty, that the lowering of rates would lead to more revenue, would you favor the lowering?” They could not say they would.

They did not want the revenue. They just wanted the higher rates, revenue be damned. I was not like that — which is one reason I joined the conservative side.

This morning, several people reminded me of an answer that Barack Obama gave during a 2008 debate with Hillary Clinton. Charlie Gibson, the moderator, brought up the capital-gains tax, saying that when it had gone down, revenue had gone up, and when it had gone up, revenue had gone down. “So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?”

The candidate said, “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital-gains tax for purposes of fairness.” Yes, that is exactly the attitude. Whenever you hear the word fairness, or its trendier cousin social justice, in a political context, beware.

P.S. For those who want maybe a musical break, I have a post on Kristin Chenoweth at The New Criterion. Some interesting issues raised, I think.



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