Matt Bruenig on the logical absurdity of debates about “wealth redistribution”:
The blogosphere is ablaze with discussions of redistribution: who redistributes to who, how much redistribution is happening, and so on. The right-wing can claim we are redistributing to poor folks because of government programs. The left-wing can claim we are redistributing to rich folks because of copyrights, patents, and various forms of protectionism for high-income jobs.
The word “redistribution” implies that there is a distribution that is default, and that we redistribute when we modify the distribution away from it. This, of course, is wrong. There is no default distribution. In the United States, we have constructed and enforce institutions of private property ownership and contract enforcement. All distributions are the consequence of any number of institutional design choices, none of which are commanded by the fabric of the universe. Those institutions generate very different end distributions than we would see if they did not exist. But they do not have to exist by logical necessity, nor do they constitute the default form of economic institutions.
Given the incoherent nature of “redistribution” as an objective category, the only thing we are really left to do is debate about which distribution we want. There are millions of possible ways to distribute things in society, and we must choose the one we like. Such a choice is inherently moral, political, and ethical in nature.