I’ve always found irritating the penchant of some on the left for casting policy disputes as centrally questions of “selfishness” or “generosity”—even if it’s too familiar to rankle much at this point. It seemed like a distracting ad hominem, a way of shifting the conversation from substantive arguments to pointless speculation about ultimately unknowable motives. It seemed like a confusion of personal virtue with political justice—two spheres that a moment’s reflection on, say, the virtue of “family loyalty” should establish as properly distinct.
And maybe because those seemed like sufficient objections themselves, I think I’d just plain ignored a far simpler problem—a glaringly obvious problem, once you think about it—which Megan McArdle explains. Because there are surely some very wealthy libertarians out there. But the folks who find themselves on the wrong end of this sort of rhetoric tend to be pundits, journalists, bloggers, and other folk who like arguing in bars. And the overlap between those groups is, to a first approximation, nil. If I were “selfish,” I would be arguing for universal healthcare funded by confiscatory taxes on brackets I’d need Hubble to glimpse. What exactly is our stake in the tax burden on the top one percent supposed to be? A big payout for our loyal hackwork from the Gnomes of Zurich? They really are screwed if their only advocates are money-grubbers so dim as to eschew law or consulting for journalism.