Take the minimum wage. Normal people like it because the government waves a magic wand and makes mean employers give helpless workers extra money, with zero blowback. So inane, yet so convincing to a psychologically normal human. An intellectually serious argument, in contrast, begins by conceding the theoretical possibility of a disemployment effect, then defends low estimates of labor demand elasticity. This is a huge improvement in intellectual substance, yet persuades only wonks.
This is the real root of Bastiat's differential ideological appeal. Friends of the free market love him because Bastiat destroys the inane arguments that make the modern welfare state popular. Once you deprive the median voter of these inane arguments, friends of the modern welfare state have to resort to intellectually serious arguments to make their case. Alas, these arguments are utterly beyond the median voter's comprehension. Most college students can't even grasp them.
So what are friends of the modern welfare state to do when confronted with Bastiat? They can't really argue with him. They know what he says is largely true. Yet if they make a big deal out of Bastiat, they risk destroying popular support for the policies they favor.
Quarta-feira, Agosto 15, 2012
Who Loves Bastiat and Who Loves Him Not: