Why Do Wealthy People Support Liberal Causes?
I have often asked myself why do so many wealthy people support liberal causes? This is the flip-side of the usual election-year frustration of the liberals with the working classes’ clinging to their guns and religion. In this presidential election year, as in 2008, the Democratic Party, who claim with less and less credibility to be the champions of the poor, have far more money to spend than the Republican Party, who are said to be the party of the greedy upper classes; how could this be?
The simple answer is this: wealthy liberals blatantly use social liberalism and big government regulation to protect their relative position in society. Big government regulation and taxation thwarts the economic mobility of those trying to move up, allowing the elites to remain elite, while still seeming pious for all their apparent efforts to help the little people.
Note that their idea of political action deals always with outcomes, never with principles: they see the federal government as a charitable organization, or a tool which they can use to reshape society. I’m not impugning motives-this is what they openly profess. Conservatives have an ideal government in mind, one that sticks to the principles of the Founders; liberals have an ideal society in mind, and they will tinker with the government until it creates it.
It’s not hard to find examples-wealthy liberals who fortify their positions with their Robin Hood policies are in the news every day. One we’re all sick of hearing about is multibillionaire investor Warren Buffet, who supports raising capital gains and dividend taxes, despite having made his fortune this way. While I respect Warren Buffett, and do not begrudge him his wealth and success, he makes a highly disingenuous case for some very destructive policies. Not only has Buffett made the moral argument that it is “fair” or just to impose an alternative minimum tax of 30% on millionaires, but he has misrepresented both the salary of his secretary (who has allowed herself to be enlisted for his and the president’s political purposes), and about the total percentage tax that he actually pays. What could explain such bizarre behavior from an octogenarian billionaire? Why would a self-made man want to punish success and reward failure?
The answer is that he is already a billionaire. Were he still climbing the ladder, rather than merely trying to maintain his vast wealth, he might have a different view of “fairness.” I would be curious to see what his views were decades ago. It is simply laughable, and deserving of ridicule, that fairness requires that we make an already highly progressive tax system even more progressive than it already is, rather than flattening the tax so that all pay the same portion of their wealth. No one even reasonably acquainted with the facts can maintain that our government doesn’t plunder the wealthy enough; it would require an ulterior motive for such a ludicrous belief.
Here's another example of limousine socialism: Goldman Sachs partners and the president of JP Morgan Chase, of which both institutions have veterans in the Obama administration, both gave strong initial support for the highly partisan, expensive and expansive Dodd-Frank regulation of the financial sector. Their banks are too big to fail: they can afford the roster of lawyers it takes to navigate the regulatory typhoon created by this legislation.
But it is much harder for their smaller competitors to afford these costs. Partners of major Wall Street law firms and the American Bar Association consistently support liberal politicians advocating additional regulation requiring more legal services. It is a universal observation of the philosophers that a nation with many laws is not a good nation, but it is also the universal observation of the lawyers that such a nation is ripe for devouring.
It is in their financial interest to create laws that the layman cannot understand or interpret. It’s not, of course, in the interest of the country—who else thinks it’s a good idea that we not know what we’re supposed to be doing?
In Florida, it is almost impossible for a 50 year old doctor or dentist from another state to get a license to practice. These license requirements are not for patients but are intended to protect existing professionals from competition, the very thing that would help patients by expanding their options and lowering prices.
Rich liberal environmentalists do not appreciate the irony when they propose gas miserly cars for the 99% but fly to environmental conferences in private jets like Al Gore or Barack Obama (in Air Force One, which costs six-figures per hour to run). They want to stop oil drilling and promote green technology with government subsidies to their political supporters in the industry. Few will publicly acknowledge, as Energy Secretary Chu has done, that the best way to increase the use of green technology is to increase the price of gas to $10!
The cost of their policies falls heavily on the poor, and the environmentalists urgently want to shift the blame for this onto greedy corporations and other bogeymen. At the same time, the environmentalists disavow the effectiveness of the market in letting price determine investment in green technology. It is not coincidental that developing countries put a low priority on the environment: they want to become rich enough to join the wealthy countries, who are meanwhile preaching environmentalism.