Inequality is Bad Because it Hurts the Republican Brand

September 9th, 2008

I thought I'd pointed this out in a previous post, but apparently not.

When you hear Republicans speaking negatively of America's extreme and growing inequality, it's only because it might hurt their brand and their electoral prospects.

David Frum is the poster child. In this week's NYT Magazine, he's nice enough make my point for me, explicitly and prominently. The title pretty much says it all.

The Vanishing Republican Voter.

As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican. The trends we have dismissed are ending by devouring us.

"Dismissed" is right. But in what seems to be an attempt to accelerate the very decline that he bemoans, he goes so far as to say, in his final paragraph:

Equality in itself never can be or should be a conservative goal.

Adam Smith, the original poster-child, thinks otherwise (though admittedly somewhat grudgingly)—both on the basis of morality, and the general good:

What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be
regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. … It is but equity, besides, that they who feed,
cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share
of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well
fed, cloathed and lodged.

Today's progressives are somewhat less grudging. They also believe that in a wildly prosperous society, it's in everyone's best interests for hard-working people to have some leisure time to spend with their families and friends, health care for their children, reasonable economic security, and some modest comforts and pleasures.

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