Paul Krugman: The Unconsciousness of a Liberal

Today brings a mixed bag for aficionados of the New York Times. The good news, assuming you enjoy reading the musings of Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks et al., is that the Times' house columnists have been freed from behind the paid-subscription firewall of "Times Select."

On the other hand, Paul Krugman has decided that his column isn't enough to contain his wisdom, and that he will henceforth be inflicting his blog on us. He entitles it "The Conscience of a Liberal," which as he notes is also the title of his recent book.

Give Krugman credit for giving us fair warning. He does let us know that "the politics and economics of inequality will, I expect, be central to many of the blog posts." And sure enough, central to today's blog is the chart pictured here, which depicts the percentage of the country's total income earned by the top 10%.

In a nutshell, Krugman applauds the way income inequality declined under FDR, and rues the fact that in recent decades it has increased due to "the vast right wing conspiracy," which he assures us does indeed exist.

Most revealing are these two Krugman statements:

[The chart is] "central to how I think about the big picture, the underlying story of what’s really going on in this country."

And Krugman's conclusion [emphasis added]:

[T]he story of modern America is, in large part, the story of the fall and rise of inequality.

To which my simple response would be: why? Why should income equality be the most important gauge of Amercan society? The obvious -- but unstated-by-Krugman -- answer is that as a liberal, Krugman is committed not to equality of opportunity, but to equality of result. This kind of acute egalitarianism is an echo of Marxism's central redistributionist principle: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

This is fundamentally antithetical to the principles of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" upon which this country was founded. Our goal should be equality before the law. Government should not seek to use its powers to re-engineer outcomes. That should, rather, be the result of individual endeavor.

You might call Krugman's inability, or refusal, to recognize this fundamental tenet of American philosophy . . . the unconsciousness of a liberal.



Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.