The Anti-Capitalist Mentality

John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog
By John Goodman
National Center for Policy Analysis, December 10, 2012


Have you ever noticed that people who worry about inequality seem to be focused only on certain kinds of inequality? When they obsess about the income and wealth of the top 1%, they seem to be bothered by only some of those at the top, and not others.

For example, have you ever seen Robert Reich or Paul Krugman or any like-minded complainer bemoan the huge salaries of professional athletes?

Even more puzzling, when is the last time you saw any of them assailing worthless heirs?

Something else is odd about the sociology of the anti-inequality crowd. They seem to be unfazed by inequality created by government.

Take the recent Powerball outcome. At $588 million, it was the largest lottery prize in history ― to be shared by two ticketholders.

Then there is the entire structure of elderly entitlements. They mainly take from people who have less and give to people who have more.

Think about that last finding for a moment. Throughout the country, families who are struggling to get by and who cannot afford to buy their own health insurance are paying 15% of their income to fund hip and knee replacements for our true leisure class, so they can get back out on the golf course.

But when Paul Krugman writes about the top 1%, this is not who he has in mind. He is complaining about the incomes of people who run large companies. He wants their tax rate to be 91%!

I think Ayn Rand may have been right. The left is populated by people who are not especially bothered by those who become wealthy by virtue of birth or luck or good fortune. They do not even seem to be bothered by the winner-take-all feature of professional sports that confers millions of dollars on some athletes while those who were almost as good languish in near poverty. No, who they obsess about are the creators, the builders, the entrepreneurs.

They don’t hate the wealthy who don’t deserve their wealth. They hate the wealthy who do deserve it.

(John Goodman understandably wants his comments to be read in full, which you can do at the following link.)

Reader Comments:

Don McCanne says:
December 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Although everyone already understands this, it is still important to distinguish between equality and equity. Most progressives are not striving for equality of income and wealth, rather the goal is equity – introduce an element of fairness in distribution.

Although sometimes expressed as an anti-corporate bias, the objection is more to policies favoring massive perverse distributions, as from rent seeking for instance. Rent seeking that provides little net benefit to society while the rent seekers scoop up the wealth, to many of us represents an intense sense of unfairness.

The work of Piketty and Saez demonstrates the unfairness that has now become the norm. In the face of a massive transfer to the wealthy, median household incomes are no longer enough to bring average families the American Dream – paying for essential needs while allowing enough for higher education of their children, adequate retirement accounts, medical costs for those with greater needs, and perhaps even a modest improvement in housing and transportation, and even an occasional well-earned vacation. And keep in mind the obvious that half of all households fall below the median.

With equitable public policies in a wealthy nation like the United States, hard working families should be able to realize the American Dream. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is for the rent seekers to establish a plutocracy and use it to break up our unions, clobber our retirement and health programs, ship jobs out of the country, saddle higher education with intolerable debt, all of this and similar abuses on top of filling their coffers with funds they have wrested away from the main source of our productivity – the workers of America.

Inequality will always be with us, but we do need policies that increase fairness by reducing inequity in America.…

This blog on “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality” does pertain to health care reform in that we will never have an equitable health care system for all until we decide that equity – fairness – must be a primary goal of public policy.