In response to Warren Buffet’s revelation that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, Chris Christie said that Buffet should “just write a check and shut up.” That is, if Buffett wants to pay more taxes, he can. What Christie resents is that Warren Buffett wants to force others to pay more taxes to support his favorite programs. Liberals, including thisweekinstupid, disagree.
When it comes to public goods, a little math goes a long way toward appreciating that opinions about public spending are a continuum and that pretending the market is always right (or always wrong) has real consequences.
I recently had my appendix removed. I’m told a typical appendectomy costs $25,000–a lot of money no matter who you are. But whether it had cost $100 or $100,000, I still would have bought exactly one appendectomy. The demand curve for appendectomies…
The wish at the heart of modern conservatism is that selfishness, in the end, will turn out to be altruism–that, when the score is all tallied, the best thing we can do for the poor is to stick it to them just as hard as we can.
Too often our political discussion never gets past witty platitudes and applause lines. When we say, “private markets are more efficient,” it’s important to specify, even with a crude estimate, just how much more efficient. Liberals should not pretend that factor is 1, but conservatives should not pretend it’s infinite. And, we should recognize that neither private nor public production is the right solution for all good in all markets. Math matters.