Friday, September 21, 2012

Government Benefits

Matt Yglesias makes an important point. Getting a direct payment from the government is a significant benefit to the individual that gets it. But many of the most valuable government benefits aren't direct payments. They are things like an enormous retroactive extension of monopolies on intellectual property, or an overly broad patent granted for rounded corners, or protective tariffs to make sure domestic sugar farmers can have bigger profits. This are things that a true pro-market party would try hard to change. Not to mention tax preferences that discriminate in favor of hedge fund managers compared to other labor, or home owners versus renters, or people who get health insurance as part of their compensation compared to those that pay for it individually. Now, the Platonic ideal of the Republican Party does want to eliminate preferential laws that cater to rent seeking, reduce preferential tax treatment to broaden the tax base, and reduce the deficit. The actual incarnate Republican Party that has a majority in the House of Representatives, not so much. In fairness, incarnate Republicans that try to actually enact the platform of the Platonic ideal of the Republican Party tend to be brutally savaged by the electorate, who are unsympathetic to the idea that any of the above changes should have any negative impact on any individual that they can imagine feeling any sense of kinship with. And the concentrated interests that receive benefits like excessive long copyright terms or preferential treatment of carried interest will defend them with passionate intensity.

2 comments:

hudebnik said...

The Platonic ideal of the Republican party has read Adam Smith and agrees with him that government should generally not intervene in the market to favor one group of merchants over another or over the consuming public.

The actual Republican party has read the amazon.com summary of the Cliff's Notes to Adam Smith, which says "Government is bad, m'kay? Businesses are good, m'kay?"

Will McLean said...

In fairness, some Republicans do believe in the Platonic ideal of Republican policy, but they never have enough votes to win the primary.