Thursday, October 21, 2010


Skimmed an article from The Guardian (UK) this morning with this rousing headline:

Spending review cuts will hit poorest harder, says IFS

Perish the thought.

I'm not an expert on public spending in the UK, but I don't think it would be quite a leap of faith to assume that a Western European country (which is often both hailed and derided for having more relatively "progressive" policies) might be spending a fairly large portion of its revenue on alleviating market "externalities." Even in a country like the U.S., which has a fairly bloated military, a majority of the revenue collected at the federal level is spent on payment transfers (read: social programs). So why would anyone be surprised that a cut in government spending (of almost any stripe) would hurt the poor the most - they are arguably the focus of most of the spending anyways.

Now, that being said, obviously several government programs (and regulations) act as a bulwark for business as well. Exactly what percentage of government spending leans in that direction is less obvious. Although, it's worth noting that progressive liberals often consider a tax cut as a subsidy - for which I appreciate the sentiment but reject the general notion. If the argument boils down to "Look! Master is letting those two slaves over there get away; that's not fair!" then I think the conversation starts getting a little too weird for me. If the government is taking less money (from anyone) - I think it's a move in the right direction. Likewise, if the government spends less on any given program (regardless of who it benefits), relieving a burden on current and/or future taxpayers - I think it's a move in the right direction.

Of course, they certainly don't see it this way. The purpose of the entire system has shifted in the direction of a Benthamite shell-game. And allowing anyone to throw down less money or even get up from the table would simply be unacceptable. Most people are caught up in playing the game. Few are questioning the ethics of being forced to play with the threat of violence. And if anyone should happen to find a way out of playing that particular day (and particularly if he has more to lose) you can bet he will be sorely reminded by the remaining players that it's not fair to leave - for you have much left to give, and they have much left to take.

And if you have the gull to imply that you're, in fact, a human being, and not simply a means to the ends of others - they might just wring their hands over the thought of letting you get away...maybe they'll even write an article about it in The Guardian.

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