We need a politics that defends free markets but also enables citizens to rise within them.
Yet again, America’s political parties are at crossed purposes. The debate over economic inequality traditionally features two rival definitions of equality. On the left, redistributive fairness reigns supreme. From this perspective, inequality is inherently unfair, and thus it is fair to equalize rewards. On the right, a much higher premium is placed on meritocratic fairness. From this perspective, forced equality is inherently unfair, and thus it is fair to match reward to merit. One definition involves equality of outcome, the other involves equality of opportunity. Winston Churchill – no egalitarian, he – put it pithily: the left favors the line, the right favors the ladder. Continue reading
In a frequently quoted passage from Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke observed that the real social contract is not (as Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed) between the sovereign and the people, or “general will,” but what Burke referred to as the “partnership” between the past, the present and the future. Continue reading
The Great Recession has officially ended, but it lingers painfully for a vast swathe of Americans. The economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have documented that recessions sparked by financial crises penetrate deeper and last longer than the normal sort, and so it has proved in this case. No less than 93% of income gains in the recovery have accrued to the top 1 percent. The huge class of Americans between society’s upper reaches and lower reaches has sustained heavy trauma in this recession, but it is a mistake to classify this condition as the product of a mere turning of the business cycle. A close reading of the facts reveals that the economic crisis only accelerated the trends already under way, laying bare the terrifying scale of the widening inequality of American society. Continue reading
The idea that President Obama is uncommonly aggressive in defeating the country’s enemies and championing democracy in the world is now widely proclaimed. This judgment has been rendered occasionally by the president’s critics, but more often it has come from his admirers. The notion that he is, to borrow from one of those admirers, “more Teddy Roosevelt than Jimmy Carter” is generally shared. Continue reading