27 January 2012

Skipping a step

An Economist's View | Mark Thoma | "A World with Healthy Middle-Class Societies"

I hate to be Mr. Negative today, but I'm less than fully convinced that we are anywhere near embarking on a path that places the welfare of the middle class at the forefront of economic decisions.
I'm sorry, but is that something we even want? I don't read Thoma often, so maybe he's already laid out reasons for why the middle class should placed be "at the forefront of economic decisions." In lamenting that we are close to achieving this goal it rather seems as if he's skipping over a very important question about whether that's actually a goal we should be trying to achieve.

Sure, it plays well to say "put the middle class first!" but why should we? It sounds nice, it seems intuitively correct, but it's directly at odds with plenty of other priorities that also sound nice. Why not put the least fortunate at the forefront of our decisions? Or the most deserving? Or the most creative and innovative? Or the most productive? Or those who create the most gains for others? Or the young? Or the old? Or generations in the future? How are we even defining "middle class" in this context? By income? Wealth? Consumption?

Why is the current median by any of these metrics the most morally deserving of priority?

(via Arnold Kling)

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