Oct 27, 2008

Marxism for beginners

"The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35% and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6%" — Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker
All this stuff about Obama's tax plan making him a "socialist" had me nervously checking my history. Maybe I'd missed something. Maybe I didn't know America as well as I thought. Maybe progressive taxation never caught on here. But no. It's as American as apple pie, first introduced by none other than McCain's personal hero FDR, along the lines suggested by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, the Ur-Text of Market Capitalism:—
"The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor... The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess... It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

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