More Bootstraps…

Tim Noah responds to what he considers “The most honest conservative commentary I’ve seen lately on the topic of income inequality.” That piece can be found here, written by Matthew Continetti, and summed up by this:

“The way out is to reject the assumption that government’s purpose is to redress inequalities of income. Inequalities of condition are a fact of life. Some people will always be poorer than others. So too, human altruism will always seek to alleviate the suffering of the destitute. There is a place for reasonable and prudent actions to improve well-being. But that does not mean the entire structure of our polity should be designed to achieve an egalitarian ideal. Such a goal is fantastic, utopian even, and one would think that the trillions of dollars the United States has spent in vain over the last 50 years to promote ‘equality as a fact and equality as a result’ would give the egalitarians pause.”

To which Mr. Noah’s response is thus:

What’s admirable about Continetti’s piece is that it states what I suspect most conservatives, deep down, really think about income inequality. Yes, it exists. Yes, it’s a problem. But it’s a problem I don’t feel like trying to address.

I would contend that, at least anecdotally, it isn’t that the modern conservative (and especially libertarian) response isn’t that they don’t feel like it’s an issue worth addressing, it’s that they don’t want the federal government to address the issue of inequality. This is because, in their mind, whatever action the federal government takes to address it amounts to a compulsion of altruism at gunpoint. Yet in many cases I’ve found that the same people who view that as compulsory theft would decry another citizens refusal to pay their taxes if the federal government were pursuing a war they considered unjust. Now in my viewpoint these are both extremely adolescent ways of viewing the various constitutional powers of the federal government…I.e, the ability to tax, promote the general welfare and national security of the United States.

Which is to say we seem awfully willing to support the federal government’s efforts when they advocate policies we agree with, but conversely scream about constitutional limitations when it advocates policies we disagree with. What this all boils down to are people arguing over differences of degree and not kind. Am I the only one that sees this? What am I missing?


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