Middle class voters support social insurance — with the government providing the types of insurance that the market provides imperfectly. That includes Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, etc. They also support temporary (but not long-term) relief for the able-bodied poor. Medicaid, food stamps, cash welfare, etc., are viewed as social insurance against bad luck. They also support other interventions (such as tariffs and quotas) that they justify in various ways.
What the middle class does not support, however, is the blatant taking from Peter and giving to Paul for no other reason than the fact that Peter has more and Paul has less. In other words, there is almost no support among ordinary people for equality for equality's sake. Put differently, the vast majority of people do not support legalized theft.
There is one group that does favor equality for equality's sake. This is the intellectual class. They not only favor equality, they are obsessed by it. Jim Gwartney pointed out to me the other day that in the advanced placement economics guide for high school students, making the income distribution more equal is listed as one of the important social functions of government. Really? Can you point to any state constitution or any city charter or anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or Federalist Papers or any other document where founding statesmen said that is a reason for establishing government?
Moving to the current day, is there any city, county or state government that has passed a resolution committing government to the goal of income equality? Don't most of these entities do the opposite — using tax abatements and other lures to attract high-income individuals and high-income job creators to their communities — thereby exacerbating the distribution of income.
The academic obsession with income equality is especially strange when you consider that most of them are not materialists. The reason many of them become academics is, in part, because they are willing to sacrifice income for leisure. Given this preference, wouldn't it make more sense to aim for equal leisure time, rather than equal incomes? I'll leave it with you as an exercise for the reader to figure out how that might work.
The third observation brings us back to where we began. The ability to gamble is the antithesis of the effort to equalize incomes. If you really thought that equality of income was so important, why would you be so callously indifferent to the inequalities generated every time the roulette wheel spins, every time the dice are thrown or every time the horses leave the gate?
I don't know the answer to that last question. Let me have your thoughts.
John C. Goodman is President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, and author of the acclaimed book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts." He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. The mission of the Wright Fellowship is to promote a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system.
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