Friday, March 23, 2012

Free Will and Wealth Distribution

Free Will
What is the appropriate distribution of wealth? Some Libertarians might well respond that the question itself is inappropriate and insist that whatever results from non-intervention by government is the correct distribution. But most Americans reason that in order for the distribution of wealth to be fair, the economic playing field must be level, so everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Most people also think there should be limits to inequality of wealth, that having a few people fabulously rich while many exist in desperate poverty is somehow un-American. Most do not begrudge the rich their wealth, but do want to preserve the middle class and American Dream while assuring the elderly, disabled, and children a life of some dignity.

So we have reduced the problem of wealth distribution to a process of promoting two simple goals - equal opportunity and protecting the innocent. What could be simpler? As it turns out these two ideas are very subjective, much pandered concepts, especially when conflated with the notion of free will.

Psychological research has shown that conservatives have a higher tolerance for inequality than liberals. Even though most people on the political right and left believe in free will, they start from very different intuitive baselines of what constitutes innocent victims of circumstance and equal opportunity. Conservatives insist that liberals are socialists who want equal outcomes. Liberals insist that conservatives are greedy and heartless. Both points of view are spurious stereotypes that derive mainly from erroneous injection of the fallacy of free will.

Panderbear respectfully submits once again that there is no place for the concept of free will in the formation of effective public policy. Attacking your ideological opponents for being what they must be is never helpful in any negotiation and neither are public policies attacking groups of Americans for being who and what they are. Dispensing with free will eliminates ad hominem blustering among the policy makers and blaming of the less fortunate for their fate. It also reduces the subjectivity surrounding what constitutes equal opportunity and entirely eliminates the necessity of distinguishing innocent victims from those who are culpable for their diminished state. Without the complications of free will pandering, policy decisions could become much more objective and more likely to succeed.

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