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August 2, 2012


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It seems you protest too much, Professor White. Your response has the tone of those who think any discussion of inequality is inappropriate. I'm not quite sure where you draw the foundational line of this post; the results to which you refer are the results of the process. Is it a question of first principles? If so, I am not as eager to carve letters into stone as some. The libertarian obsession with first principles is intended, in my eyes, as a distraction from the cruel injustice of the society they imagine.

Taxation isn't meant simply as a crude implement of ex post equalisation; It is also, don't forget, the means with which we pay for the actual instruments of fairness, such as education, healthcare, etc. It's a common fallacy (especially among libertarians, to borrow a construction) that taxation exists for its own sake.

Ex ante is preferable to ex post; I think we agree this point. But when the failures of the system in question center around rents, taxation to claw back some of the rent is not necessarily distortionary.

Thanks for the comment, Jonas--please allow me to clarify some points. By no means do I think any discussion of inequality is inappropriate, but I do think that certain ways of approaching and dealing with it are. Also, I do not focus on first principles or original positions, but rather on the justice or injustice of ongoing institutions. Finally, I do not argue that taxation is exclusively a redistributive instrument--but as a simplistic, blunt response to inequality, it can be.

I'm glad we do agree on ex ante versus ex post! Though, again, the source of rents, not merely their existence or judged exorbitance, is the proper focus on inquiry. Just ask Mr. Chamberlain. ;)

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Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Based Approaches to Social-Economic Problems, Mark D. White (ed)

Beyond Social Capital: A Critical Approach, Irene van Stavern and Peter Knorringa (eds)

Economics and the Mind, Barbara Montero and Mark D. White (eds)

Ethics and Economics: New Perspectives, Mark D. White and Irene van Staveren (eds)

Ethics in Economics: An Introduction to Moral Frameworks, Jonathan B. Wight

The Feminist Economics of Trade, Irene van Staveren et al (eds)

Handbook of Economics and Ethics, Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren (eds)

The Illusion of Well-Being: Economic Policymaking Based on Respect and Responsiveness, Mark D. White

Kantian Ethics and Economics: Autonomy, Dignity, and Character, Mark D. White

Law and Social Economics: Essays in Ethical Values for Theory, Practice, and Policy, Mark D. White (ed.)

The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism, Mark D. White

Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy, Mark D. White (ed.)

Saving Adam Smith: A Tale of Wealth, Transformation, and Virtue, Jonathan B. Wight

Street Porter and the Philosopher: Conversations on Analytical Egalitarianism, Sandra J. Peart and David M. Levy (eds)

Teaching the Ethical Foundations of Economics, Jonathan B. Wight and John S. Morton et al

Theoretical Foundations of Law and Economics, Mark D. White (ed.)

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination, Chrisoula Andreou and Mark D. White (eds)

The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective, Irene van Staveren

The Vanity of the Philosopher: From Equality to Hierarchy in Postclassical Economics, Sandra J. Peart and David M. Levy