Fetishizing popular opinion

Here’s a style of argument that bugs me:

[T]he American public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy as part of a package to cut the deficit. The margins are staggering: the NYT poll shows a majority of 74 – 21; even Rasmussen shows a majority of 56 – 34. What the president proposed this morning is simply where the American people are at.

So here’s the thing: There are a lot more not-rich Americans than there are rich Americans.  This endorsement doesn’t mean “Wow, raising taxes on the rich is a great idea” so much as it means “Wow, raising taxes on someone else is an appealing idea”.  Tax policy is not a “wisdom of crowds” problem.

(While I’m on the subject: Raising taxes on the rich — or, better, axing a bunch of tax breaks — is probably not a bad idea as part of a larger deficit-reduction package.  That said, anyone who wants to put the screws to the wealthy should realize that, at the margins, when you tax something harder you get less of it, and while “having fewer rich people” might make not-rich people feel better about themselves it’s a bad thing in general.)


2 Responses to “Fetishizing popular opinion”

  1. September 21, 2011 at 07:52

    Heh. When I read this I immediately thought about symbolic politics and taxes as lowering the status of rich people, and not about tax policy.

    What have you done to me, Hanson?!

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anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

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Statistics FTW


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