Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Democrats and social justice

Chris Reed's critique of California Democrats can be applied to the party writ large. Democratic opposition to Wal-Mart (and on a related point, free trade) is best understood as a sop to unions rather than a defense of the poor against the perils of cheap groceries. Welfare reform, which Reed notes has proved a tremendously successful anti-poverty program, was opposed by most of the Democratic rank and file. Climate change legislation, meanwhile, is an expensive indulgence meant to address the green sensibilities of middle and upper-income Democratic voters while achieving little of substance.

Beyond those examples cited by Reed, its also worth noting that any proposed reforms to the public school system, which the poor disproportionately rely upon, that do not simply involve shoveling more money into the existing system are fought tooth and nail.

Lastly, one must recall that each new regulation or tax imposed by government on the private sector has at least some small marginal cost that must be borne, and those most vulnerable are those who live at the margins of society. When the rich are targeted for a tax increase, it is the rich person's gardener, housekeeper, etc. where the impact will be most acutely felt in the form of reduced wages or fewer hours. Similarly, in the world of business it is not large corporations with compliance and legal functions that are most harmed by new regulations, but the small business just scraping by. And if layoffs are necessary, rest assured it won't be the owner who gets the axe.

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