I've resisted the urge to write about the McCain campaign's latest silliness, the whole Obama's-a-socialist-because-of-his-"spread-the-wealth-around"-comment. But I can't help myself. Two points:
- The definition of socialism to which most economists, poli sci types, etc, adhere is that socialism is that form of economic organization in which the state controls the means of production.
- While there are some examples of this sort of thing in just about any market-based economy (geez, the government controls the military!), the idea that redistribution per se implies socialism is ridiculous. Hell, the second welfare theorem states that in a perfectly competitive economy (I bet that got the attention of all those neoclassical macro fans!), you can get to any desired (Pareto) efficient allocation with laissez-faire marginal tax policy and the right set of lump-sum...wait for it...redistributions! I guess in current parlance you might call that socialism the Arrow-DeBreu complete-markets way.
More seriously, I challenge anyone to find me an example of an extant national economy of a non-failed state that has no government involvement. You can't do it, because even in the most laissez-faire-loving polity, someone has to protect property rights, and lump-sum taxes aren't feasible in the real world.
A further point on redistribution is that it is effected not only via tax policy, but also via spending policies. It makes no sense to denounce as socialism refundable tax credits but not, say, government-funded refinancing of underwater mortgages at below-market rates. I could go on.
Palin: We Shouldn't Experiment With SocialismIt's been amusing to watch the denunciations of Obama's economic plans by conservatives (e.g., the 90 economists who call themselves 100 economists supporting McCain). You get the usual stuff -- taxes bad, spending bad, defies economic reason, Obama=socialism, etc. Yet Sarah Palin's government fuel-injected popularity somehow has escaped comment.
Sarah Palin derided Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's tax policies yesterday, telling a rally in New Mexico, "Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism." Note: Sarah Palin is the governor of a state that practices collective ownership of oil and other natural resources, and equally distributes the state's cut of the revenues to every citizen.