Why the 1 per­centers lean left

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation -

Ihave of­ten asked my­self, and heard it asked by oth­ers, why so many wealthy peo­ple sup­port lib­eral causes. (This is the flip side of the usual elec­tion-year frus­tra­tion of the lib­er­als with the work­ing classes’ cling­ing to their guns and re­li­gion.) In this pres­i­den­tial cam­paign sea­son, as in 2008, the Demo­cratic Party, which claims with less and less cred­i­bil­ity to be the cham­pion of the poor, has far more money to spend than the Re­pub­li­can Party, which is said to be the party of the greedy up­per classes; how could this be?

The sim­ple an­swer is this: Wealthy lib­er­als bla­tantly use so­cial lib­er­al­ism and big-gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion to pro­tect their rel­a­tive po­si­tions in so­ci­ety. Big-gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion and tax­a­tion thwart the eco­nomic mo­bil­ity of those try­ing to move up, al­low­ing the elites to re­main elite while still seem­ing pi­ous for all their ap­par­ent ef­forts to help the lit­tle peo­ple.

Note that their idea of po­lit­i­cal ac­tion deals al­ways with out­comes, never with prin­ci­ples. They see the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion or a tool they can use to re­shape so­ci­ety. I’m not im­pugn­ing mo­tives — this is what they openly pro­fess. Con­ser­va­tives have an ideal gov­ern­ment in mind, one that sticks to the prin­ci­ples of the Founders; lib­er­als have an ideal so­ci­ety in mind, and they will tinker with the gov­ern­ment un­til it cre­ates one.

It’s not hard to find ex­am­ples. Wealthy lib­er­als for­ti­fy­ing their po­si­tions with their Robin Hood poli­cies are in the news ev­ery day. One we’re all sick of hear­ing about is multi­bil­lion­aire in­vestor War­ren Buf­fet, who sup­ports rais­ing taxes on cap­i­tal gains and div­i­dends, de­spite hav­ing made his for­tune this way. While I re­spect War­ren Buf­fett and do not be­grudge him his wealth and suc­cess, he makes a highly disin­gen­u­ous case for some very de­struc­tive poli­cies.

Not only has Mr. Buf­fett made the moral ar­gu­ment that it is “fair” and just to im­pose an al­ter­na­tive min­i­mum tax of 30 per­cent on mil­lion­aires, but he also has mis­rep­re­sented the salary of his sec­re­tary (who has al­lowed her­self to be en­listed for his and the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal pur­poses) and the tax rate he pays. What could ex­plain such bizarre be­hav­ior from an oc­to­ge­nar­ian bil­lion­aire? Why would a self-made man want to pun­ish suc­cess and re­ward fail­ure?

The an­swer is that he is al­ready a bil­lion­aire. Were he still climb­ing the lad­der, rather than merely try­ing to main­tain his vast wealth, he might have a dif­fer­ent view of “fair­ness.” In­deed, I would be cu­ri­ous to see what his views were decades ago.

It is sim­ply laugh­able and de­serv­ing of ridicule that fair­ness re­quires that we make an al­ready highly pro­gres­sive tax sys­tem even more pro­gres­sive than it al­ready is, rather than flat­ten­ing the tax so that all pay the same por­tion of their wealth. No one even rea­son­ably ac­quainted with the facts can main­tain that our gov­ern­ment doesn’t plun­der the wealthy enough; it would re­quire an ul­te­rior mo­tive to hold such a lu­di­crous be­lief.

For an­other ex­am­ple of limou­sine so­cial­ism, the part­ners of Gold­man Sachs Group Inc. and the pres­i­dent of Jpmor­gan Chase & Co. — two in­sti­tu­tions stocked with vet­er­ans in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — gave strong ini­tial sup­port for the highly par­ti­san, ex­pen­sive and ex­pan­sive Dodd-frank bill to reg­u­late the fi­nan­cial sec­tor. Their banks are too big to fail. They can af­ford the ros­ter of lawyers it takes to nav­i­gate through the reg­u­la­tory typhoon cre­ated by this leg­is­la­tion.

But it is much harder for their smaller com­peti­tors to af­ford these costs. Part­ners of ma­jor Wall Street law firms and the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion con­sis­tently sup­port lib­eral politi­cians, ad­vo­cat­ing ad­di­tional reg­u­la­tion re­quir­ing more le­gal ser­vices. It is a univer­sal ob­ser­va­tion of the philoso­phers that a na­tion with many laws is not a good na­tion, but it is the univer­sal ob­ser­va­tion of the lawyers that such a na­tion is ripe for de­vour­ing.

It is in their fi­nan­cial in­ter­est to cre­ate laws that the lay­man can­not un­der­stand or in­ter­pret. It’s not, of course, in the in­ter­est of the coun­try — who else thinks it’s a good idea that we not know what we’re sup­posed to be do­ing?

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