I say these statistics are much more important than these statistics.
David Henderson has a good post on how studying economics led him to combat his emotional feelings and adopt a more libertarian viewpoint:
I started to understand that the vast majority of income in a relatively free society is earned. It’s true that a small number of wealthy people did get their money by fraud or dishonesty. More common, especially in societies with lots of government controls, were people who got wealthy by using political pull. But I started to see that the typical high-income person in a relatively free society gets his or her income the old-fashioned way–by earning it.
What interests me about the post has less to do with the intellectual underpinnings of Henderson’s argument and more to do with the relationship between reasoning and emotion. Even after adjusting his intellectual framework, Henderson retained the emotional effects of a prior framework:
Even though this was a full four years after I had realized that the vast majority of “the rich” get their money relatively honestly, I felt the old resentment at these people who had what I could not imagine myself ever being able to afford. I looked down at my fists and saw that I had clenched them in anger.
It’s fundamentally difficult to confront one’s own emotional intuitions, and if you surround yourself with like-minded thinkers (or include only the most extreme and moronic opponents) you never have to do so, because you’ll never have to change your views. This is, in my humble opinion, a very bad thing. It turns you into a fundamentally unthinking person. Instead, I strongly advocate a deliberate attempt to seek out the most intelligent opposing voices you can tolerate, to engage with them in argument, and when tension arises between your emotions and reason, acknowledge and address the tension, no matter how difficult or painful.
Spurred on by Connor’s lengthy response to my post on Wisconsin unions (I was waiting for someone to take the bait), I will wade into this issue, rather than sweeping it under the rug. While I don’t see American class warfare a problem of the same magnitude as poverty, war, corruption or crime, I’ll grant that it’s an interesting question, to which there are better and worse answers. I have an opinion on the NFL labor dispute, so I well ought have an opinion on the situation in Wisconsin, which is admittedly a more important issue.
But I confess, I lack crucial knowledge! For all the reporting on protests, I don’t understand key details regarding the issues at stake. I get that the bill limits unions ability to collectively bargain, but I don’t understand what that means. Particularly, what is the current (pre-legislation) basis of collective bargaining? When public-sector unions collectively bargain, who do they bargain with, and what leverage does each side have? Are public-sector unions able to strike if the other side doesn’t meet their demands? Who is the other side, the governor? Other elected or appointed figures?
By my cursory reading of the bill, public-sector employees would still be able to organize themselves to negotiate for higher salaries and benefits, but they’d need to negotiate with the state legislature–who can enact laws that increase salaries and benefits. It doesn’t seem like a particularly harsh blow against anyone’s rights to force unions to negotiate with representatives of the people who write their members’ checks. What am I missing here?
I find myself highly troubled by the ongoing class wars is the United States, mostly because of the amount of effort and energy being wasted on it. America is an enormously wealthy country by international or historic standards. Neither the American middle class nor the American upper class are oppressed group, yet each frames its argument as if the fate of the world depends on their getting a larger piece of the pie.
Scott Sumner makes an interesting argument about means testing. Union-workers make a compelling case to defend their negotiating power. No one wants their taxes raised or benefits cut, and its fairly easy to argue persuasively that your case is special.
And all I can think is, stop whining. Deal with it. There are serious problems in the world. There’s a large budget shortfall, and the only way to address it is to cut spending or raise taxes. There are honest arguments to be had about how to do so, but any argument that can be accurately summarized as “Don’t take my shit” is going to get mocked. Here on this blog. By me.