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Disheartening that my comment has drawn some negative reactions.

A public policy of forced "sharing" of wealth has an absolutely abysmal track record. Any supporters of that idea willing to explain why they think it will work this time? Anybody want to take my question seriously and answer what philosophy of government they are using to claim that redistribution of wealth is the proper role for government?

> A public policy of forced "sharing" of wealth has an absolutely abysmal track record.

A public policy of forced sharing of wealth is what distinguishes the developed societies of the modern world from those of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (that is, it distinguished modern mixed economies from true capitalism), and it's what has made possible anything but a miserable existence for the bulk of society, the working class.

Every debate over this issue in modern developed societies is mostly, in effect, a debate over fine-tuning parameters, not over whether or not to have such a policy in the first place, except where some economic reactionary is preaching a return to 19th century capitalism.

So, no, your premise that it has an abysmal rack record is as wrong as it is possible to be; it (forced sharing over an otherwise capitalist property structure) has the best track record for human conditions of any broad class of economic approaches ever tried.

There might be better options that haven't been properly tried, sure, but that's a bit speculative.

I think there is some ambiguity here as to whether you are defending redistribution as a means to an end or as an end unto itself.

To clarify, if you assert that a proper role of government is to provide a basic safety net for all citizens, then you could follow that up with the idea that some revenue is required to meet that goal and that might include "forced sharing" -- taxes of some sort.

On the other hand if you start out with the statement that redistributing wealth is the goal itself, then you are talking about something entirely different and it is this idea that I was suggesting as having an abysmal track record.

So my question remains, what philosophy of government starts with the idea that the proper role of government is to redistribute wealth forcibly?

"Providing a safety net for all citizens" is really just wealth redistribution. So too is progressive taxation (as opposed to flat taxes), which is something you're presumably in favor of.

I tried to make it clear that there is a difference between taxation to further a legitimate government role (e.g. National Defense) and viewing redistribution itself as a goal (it isn't fair that some people have more money than others, lets fix that!). That distinction is what I wanted to clarify because the OP I replied to was suggestive of redistribution as a goal, which is worrisome.

20th and 21st century societies are largely better off because capitalism has drastically increased quality of life by making many goods and services faster, cheaper and better. Saying that this progress is due to government redistribution policies is a huge stretch. Many places few or no such policies have seen an massive increase in quality of life in the past 120 years that can only be attributed to something other than government intervention. Most of the 20th century’s biggest failures were due to government intervention.


The other thing worth considering is that many of the socieities that have fared the best over the past 300-400 years are almost invariably in places with four distinct seasons. The reason for this is that seasons are a forcing function to make sure planning and long termism becomes part of the culture. If you don’t plan for surviving winter, you die. If you learn how to plan for winter, you sharpen skills that can be used to plans years ahead. Tropical climates don’t have this benefit.

All government policies are redistributive. Capping payroll taxes is redistributive. A lower income tax rate for capital gains is redistributive. Limiting recovery for wrongdoing is redistributive. Limiting "lemon laws" to a small number of days and only for brand new cars is redistributive. Corporate liability shields are redistributive. Establishing slavery was redistributive, and abolishing it was redistributive. Every single economic policy choice, from protecting private property to subsidizing beachfront property insurance, changes wealth distribution. So it's interesting to me that those who espouse unfettered capitalism seem to oppose only those redistributive policies that help poor people.

> All government policies are redistributive.

Doing nothing is not redistributive. No policy at all means accepting the distribution that occurs naturally (i.e. without interference) between two or more parties to a transaction.

So would you be in favor of abolishing all corporations?

If you aren't willing to take that radical step, then "doing nothing" is off the table.

I'm having a hard time parsing your comment.

You seem to be equating "redistributing wealth" with "any government action". It is certainly true that almost any government action changes something and thus can affect the economy in general but that doesn't mean those two phrases are interchangeable. For me, your formulation is just confusing.

You are also throwing up a straw-man argument of "unfettered capitalism". Advocating for a limited government with proscribed powers that don't involve a primary goal of "redistributing wealth" is not a statement about "capitalism" or advocating for "unfettered capitalism". It is a statement about the role of government.

It's not a particularly subtle or difficult point. Every time the government touches anything having to do with money, it has a redistributive effect.

For example, if the government limits who has standing to sue under environmental statutes, and decreases enforcement, it redistributes wealth from the poor who were using a natural resource to any company that may have polluted or depleted it.

The comment to which I was responding said explicitly that "capitalism has drastically increased quality of life" and that "[m]ost of the 20th century’s biggest failures were due to government intervention." Talking about the weaknesses of capitalism when it is unfettered by government intervention is clearly on-point.

On the other hand, I don't see anyone saying redistribution should be "a primary goal," as you characterize it. Where are you seeing that?

I'm seeing that here in the first message I replied to:

> And start demanding that our government do what it's supposed to do: ensure that the wealth generated by corporations is adequately shared by all.

Fair enough, mea culpa.

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