December 28, 2012

The new Zero-Sum era of American politics

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

P.J. O’Rourke offers some mild congratulations to President Obama for a few accomplishments during his first term, then explains why the way he won his second term is a bad thing both for the United States and for the rest of the world:

You sent a message to America in your re-election campaign. Therefore you sent a message to the world. The message is that we live in a zero-sum universe.

There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney’s argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we’ve got — with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.

In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.

There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.

Mr. President, your entire campaign platform was redistribution. Take from the rich and give to the . . . Well, actually, you didn’t mention the poor. What you talked and talked about was the middle class, something most well-off Americans consider themselves to be members of. So your plan is to take from the more rich and the more or less rich and give to the less rich, more or less. It is as if Robin Hood stole treasure from the Sheriff of Nottingham and bestowed it on the Deputy Sheriff.

But never mind. The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.


  1. And if his opponent (who was he?) it wd be another case of no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

    Comment by Sm — December 28, 2012 @ 12:10

  2. As I mentioned several times during the US election campaign … there wasn’t much actual as opposed to rhetorical difference between the Republican and the Democratic candidates. Given that the alternative to Tweedledum was Mormon Tweedledum, it’s not very surprising that the electorate stayed with the known quantity.

    Comment by Nicholas — December 28, 2012 @ 12:20

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