I have, at times, described my political instincts as a mix of libertarianism and utilitarianism. My libertarian bona fides are in serious question these days, but lets run with it for the moment. Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton has a post today that puts those two ways of approaching policy in serious tension.
Good news! Giving free money to poor people is good for the economy! Legislation establishing confiscatory estate taxes and setting up a government jobs program fixing infrastructure must be in the works!
I was sort of glib with my title. I don’t suppose “liberty” would be the particular focus, but more of a natural right to property. But, I guess Libertarians do the same to some extent. Their concern is perhaps generally with “liberty” but they spend most of their time on property rights with liberty rights being in more of a soft focus.
But, for argument’s sake, what if the premise is correct: that confiscating property from dead people and giving it to poor people was very beneficial to the economy? But, let’s also say there is a natural right of dead people to give property to their children.
What’s a policymaker to do in that situation? Honor the property rights of the recently deceased or promote the utility of the living?
I expect you probably go with the mixed bag we’ve had in the past. The government takes some and leaves some alone. And we haggle endlessly over the proper balance.