Monday, March 2, 2009

Let's Check The Federalist Papers And See

E. J. Dionne, Jr. crystallizes the budget debate:
The central issue in American politics now is whether the country should reverse a three-decade long trend of rising inequality in incomes and wealth.

Politicians will say lots of things in the coming weeks, but they should be pushed relentlessly to address the bottom-line question: Do they believe that a fairer distribution of capitalism's bounty is essential to repairing a sick economy? Everything else is a subsidiary issue.


cp said...

Who cares what the Federalists thought? I mean, their ideas ARE important, but they lived before the corporation became a person, and before so many other things that have changed the game: the industrial revolution, the emancipation of women and non-white people, and health technology.

I'm just sayin.

Fr. John said...

Thanks. While there are those who think every modern dilemma can be addressed by citing an 18th century document or authority, I'm not among them.

Still, the emancipation of people who were disenfranchised at the founding amounts to little more than a perfecting of the founders' vision.

As for the rest, I'm guessing you believe that industrialization and the cost of modern health care are acting to create wealth disparities that the founders couldn't have envisioned. Fair enough. Government can and should take steps to protect those who don't thrive in a free economy, for whatever reason.

But if Dionne is correct, we're on the verge of dramatically increasing the government's role as a guarantor of wealth equality rather than opportunity equality. No better time for a debate that takes in first principles (that is, the views of the founders) as well as a sober assessment of exactly how successful the state and the risks it runs of deterring or punishing enterprise, investment, and risk.