NOTE: I noticed this article was cited in a note in my essay "Government by Emotion", and oddly enough, though one of my favorites, on a topic which is also a favorite (though oddly one I address all too infrequently), I never copied it o my new blog. And so, in hopes of inspiring myself to spend a little more time arguing against both parties' silly "pro-middle class" rhetoric (a favorite at election time), I am reproducing this post from September of 2008.
I saw a clip from Obama's new advertisement "Zero" and I have to ask, since when did we decree that the government was in power solely to benefit the middle class? I thought the government was supposed to represent all of the American people, rich, poor and middle class, not just the middle class.
Of course, this ad is just a smoke screen. Obama knows the Democrats have a reputation as the party of the poor and special interests, so he is trying to pretend he is the champion of the middle class. And that is a safe term, as everyone imagines they are "middle class". It means he can say anything and people will think it applies to them. Just as when Clinton said he would tax only "the rich", people thought that excluded them, until they found out "the rich" was everyone earning over $50,000 per year. Likewise, people are going to find out Obama's "middle class" is a pretty narrow group. Just like the "working families" who will see his tax breaks.
And that is the problem when we ask government favor one group. We think we will get the long end of the stick, but we don't know. We want to "soak the rich", but suddenly find out "the rich" is us, at least form the perspective of those below us. But that is the danger of giving in to class envy, unless you are at the absolute bottom, there is always someone who envies you and may offer a few more votes to the politicians than you can.
And honestly, why should we want a government to favor "the middle class" any more than it should favor "the poor" or "the rich"? The government should be blind, and treat all citizens exactly the same. That is the only equitable solution. I know right now there is a lot of populist rhetoric out there about government favoring the rich and about fat cat CEOs and all that usual garbage that its tossed around whenever someone thinks it might buy them some votes. But the solution is not to "soak the rich", but to stop stupidities such as this bailout.
The answer is not to balance out special favors to the rich with special favors to the poor and the middle class. The solution is to end all those special favors. We will never balance out favors, we will just have endless pressure group warfare. The answer is to create a state which is blind to class, to wealth, to all of that. A government which has no favors to hand out, so there is no fight about which group gets them.
Once we reduce our government to a minimal night watchman, which stops crimes, defends the borders and settles civil suits, there are no longer favors, there are no longer benefits, and no one will care whether the government favors one group, as its favor will mean nothing. And that is the solution, not making the government favor this group or that, but to make the favor of government so worthless that no one cares who has it.
Originally posted in Random Notes on 2008/09/29.
NOTE: In reproducing this, I did clean up a few typos.
NOTE: To be fair to myself, I did discuss some similar topics, though not specifically in terms of the middle class, rather in terms of conflicting systems of patronage, in "The Other 99%", "Patronage", "Patronage and Choice", "The Road to Violence" and "The War of All Against All", specifically addressing the idea of our assumptions versus those of the politicans making promises in "The Inherent Disappointment of Authoritarianism", so I did not completely ignore this topic. But it does need to be mentioned a bit more, especially in election years.