Thomas Sowell
Recommend this article

As much as I enjoy most of the messages from readers, there is no way that I can answer more than a small fraction of them.
The messages I don't reply to at all are those from obviously ignorant people who offer insults instead of arguments. However, a recent column has brought forth more than the usual number of uninformed denunciations, so it may be useful to other readers to explain why they should not take such nonsense seriously when they encounter it.

 What I said that set off the crazies was that there is no such thing as "trickle-down" economics. Supposedly those who believe in trickle-down economics want to give benefits to the rich, on the assumption that these benefits will trickle down to the poor.

 As someone who spent the first decade of his career researching, teaching and writing about the history of economic thought, I can say that no economist of the past two centuries had any such theory.

 Some of those who denounced me for saying that there was no trickle-down theory cited an article by David Stockman years ago -- as if David Stockman was the last word, and I should forget everything I learned in years of research because David Stockman said otherwise.

 What is often confused with a trickle-down theory is supply-side economics, such as that advocated by Arthur Laffer. That theory is that tax cuts can generate more tax revenue for the government because it changes people's behavior, causing more economic activity to take place, leading to more taxable income, as well as a faster growing economy.

 It is not hard to find examples of when this happened -- for example, during the Kennedy administration, among other times and places. Whether it will happen in a given set of circumstances is what is controversial, but none of this has anything to do with money trickling down from the rich to the poor. It has to do with the creation of more wealth in the economy as a whole.

 The notion of a trickle-down theory is debunked on pages 388-389 of my book "Basic Economics" (2nd edition). But most of those who went ballistic over my denial of a trickle-down theory were not seeking further information.

 As far as they were concerned, they already had the absolute truth and only needed to vent their anger over my having dared to say otherwise. That is a sign of a much more general and much more dangerous trend in our society today that goes far beyond a handful of true believers foaming at the mouth against one columnist.

Recommend this article

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate