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May 07, 2014

Does the Left hate work?

The problem isn't that the Left hates work; the problem is that they don't understand the difference between productive work and unproductive work.

The public sector (where many if not most leftists focus their lives, directly or indirectly) is not a productive enterprise. It consumes; it does not produce. It is a cost center, not a profit center. This is not to say that a public sector is bad or wrong or unnecessary (though I think it should be as small as possible) -- it is simply to say that the public sector, generally speaking, does not produce wealth. It eats wealth. The larger the public sector, the less wealth that is produced (in market economies, anyway).

But this is just another way of saying that the political left doesn't really understand basic economics, or the difference between wealth and money.

This goes back to a point I was making a couple of weeks back about the left hating economic inequality, but being perfectly okay with political inequality. In the public sector, power stems from rank and position, from networks of colleagues and regulatory influence -- thus, public-sector workers tend to disdain wealth-building because they've never done it and don't really understand it. In the public sector wealth just appears as if by magic, and can then be spent (for this is exactly how liberals understand taxation).

In the real world that citizens must inhabit, however, wealth is vital. It keeps us clothed, shod, and fed; it provides shelter; it provides contingency against future calamity. It makes life more comfortable and more enjoyable. It provides alternatives, in amazing profusion. More wealth, in general, is better. Rich people get richer, but poor people get richer too, so everyone benefits in that scenario. Political power, on the other hand, tends to be a zero-sum equation: power gained by one is power lost or abrogated by someone else.

To sharpen my point: people who create wealth in the private sector tend to be far more productive than those in the public sector, all other things being equal. The left may natter on about "intangibles" and "externalities" in terms of creating value, but ultimately before a thing is consumed it must be produced (remember Say's Law?). Products must be paid for with other products. An economy cannot function for long without productive labor.


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posted by Monty at 06:52 PM

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