How can you reconcile Americans’ obvious attachment to rent-seeking with their apparent distaste for income redistribution?
PRINCETON, NJ — When given a choice about how government should address the numerous economic difficulties facing today’s consumer, Americans overwhelmingly — by 84% to 13% — prefer that the government focus on improving overall economic conditions and the jobs situation in the United States as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans.
That people in the government don’t have the vaguest idea of how to go about improving the overall economic conditions and the jobs situation probably wouldn’t satisfy them much.
How do you explain the simultaneous disapproval of redistribution with the reality that two purely redistributive programs, Social Security and Medicare, have substantial public support?
I’m afraid that the answer lies in a simple little bit of human nature: lots of people are willing to take a handout when it’s offered to them (especially when the handout is cloaked in a veneer of entitlement) but not nearly so many want to offer the handout. Elbert Hubbard, who founded an interesting corporate utopian community in East Aurora, New York, more than a century ago put it pretty well when he was asked whether he were a socialist. He responded When 51% of the people want to give rather than get, I’ll be a socialist.
Nowhere is this attitude better exemplified than in the state of Alaska, whose citizens possess the seemingly unlikely combination of a rugged individualist reluctance to have the government meddle in their affairs with a willingness to accept a nearly $2,000 per Alaskan handout from the Alaska Permanent Fund. I’ve heard this combination referred to as red neck socialism and it’s a very Jacksonian, very American attitude.