Dennis Miller vs. Ben Stein

I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here).  These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning. 

Audio of today’s interview is here.  Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.”  It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use.  Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!” 

Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.

That’s a good point, but I wish he’d spent more time attacking the ethics of resorting to conveniently taxing the most productive when government finds itself overdrawn.  Doesn’t that seem like an irresponsible (nay, unsustainable) reflex to anyone else?  Miller did mention that those whose taxes could be hiked would be rightfully resentful of being forced to pay for things that different people (politicians) want to do for yet other people (this would include everything from social spending to bureaucracy, I suppose).  Miller also made a couple of jokes to the effect that, if the feds expect the wealthy to bail out our debt, the most logical thing for the wealthy to do would be to “shrug.” 

But Miller and Stein have clearly been friends for a long time; they argued respectfully, and ended politely.  Good for them. 

I was thinking of runaway government growth and spending this morning at the gym, too.  Sitting on an exercise bike, I watched coverage of President Obama discussing leadership for his new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on CNN.  Did anyone think that he and President Bush would end up being so similar in so many cases?  Here, Obama seems to have his version of the Department of Homeland Security. 

In each case, the president and his administration respond to populist demand for action against some scary bugaboo (Obama: failing economy, Bush: government inability to prevent terrorist attacks), by making up new government agencies so they can make it look like they’re solving a problem.  I guess government’s always been good at looking busy.  (Incidentally, has it ever made sense to anyone that Bush wanted to solve the ostensible problem of government bureaucracy being inefficient by making that bureaucracy larger?) 

But now at least our society is perfecting its ideological inconsistency–we’ll increase our fear mongering and scapegoating of the rich, at the same time that we increase our reliance on them.  If that’s not straight out of Atlas Shrugged, I don’t know what is. 


3 comments on “Dennis Miller vs. Ben Stein

  1. Atlas may shrug. But to suggest that the Steve Ballmers, Larry Ellisons and Warren Buffetts would stop trying if they had to pay, say, two per cent more of their income in taxes–that being the second-lowest tax rate they’ve paid in their lives–is worth a shrug, also. I’d take the risk, especially with so many of the rich saying they’d rather pay more taxes than see Social Security and Medicare cut.

    It tends to be a small fringe group, to whom taxes are always anathema.

    But yes, I guess we could try an “each man for himself” society, where you’ll get nothing if you can’t extract it out of others yourself. IOW, the “Korihor Society”. I’m pretty surprised that some LDS people are advocating an ideology so clearly linked to someone so resented.

    When the first people started working together to get protection from predators and robbers, it was naturally those, who had most to lose, who paid the most.

    Are the “Atlases” really so protective, that we must create a special protected class out of those, who do nothing but invest money in the horse race they call the “stocks and bonds”?

    The Wall Street canard that the only purpose of the corporation is to add value to the owner’s investment is patently false. If we leave other players out of the equation, they are going to produce a lot less added value. It’s actually a tested principle.

  2. Your points have value, but are extreme in the sense that they caricature the other view. I’ve said before that Objectivism isn’t fully compatible with the gospel, but neither is a bloated social welfare state–another caricature, surely, but one that, I think, is closer to our present reality.

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