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The whole trickle-down thing

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For years, free market theory of one sort or another has been caricatured as “trickle down economics.” The idea is that we believe that if society protects the wealth of the rich, and let’s them keep more of their money, the blessings will eventually trickle down to the poor and middle class. In some ways, it is not an entirely indefensible view, but of course the phrasing is designed to somehow elucidate the elitist absurdity even before arguments are heard. One thing I’ve learned is that when anyone says your position amounts to trickle-down economics, there’s not much else they are willing to discuss.

But it occurs to me that there might be a way to turn this phrase back on those who push for government intervention, though I’m sure someone else has observed this before. The real theory of trickle down is actually advocated by the interventionists and socialists. They think that if we tax everyone and give money to the government, it will eventually come trickling down to the middle class and the poor. Same with power. If we give more power to the state to regulate and run our lives, this power will trickle down to the rest of us.

But if you want to talk of implausible theories, this is surely it. Government’s power and money doesn’t trickle down. It takes money and pours it into ever more bureaucracy and gives it to the elites. Its power grows and grows at the expense of society. This is the experience of the whole of human history.

According to Wikipedia, this might be closer to the original meaning of the phrase in any case. Will Rogers wrote of the New Deal that “money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” That sounds like a summary of Obamanomics.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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