Criticism Economics The Opinionsphere

Victor Davis Hanson’s “Productive Classes”

It’s always interesting to watch a pundit venture from his field of “expertise.” Scratch a bit beneath the surface, and anywhere outside of their expertise they tend to be rabid ideologues. Every virtue they bring to their perspective on what they are an expert in vanishes. Generalists on the other hand seem to bring the same worldview to everything – whatever it may be. (My goal with this blog is to be a rather amiable generalist.)

For example, Victor Davis Hanson is an expert on ancient warfare. However, he wrote last week a column in the National Review about the “war” on the “wannabe rich.” His evidence of such a war is based on the idea that someone who is extremely wealthy has far more money than he or she needs – and so, increased taxes don’t hurt them much. Which is, of course, the entire basis for the progressive taxation that Hanson is trying to reject – that money beyond a certain base of income serves little use. The utility of more income for someone making $500,000 a year is¬†undoubtedly¬†less then for someone making $50,000.

Hanson also attempts to play the populist card in the class struggle between the “haves” and the “have mores” – or the “haves” and the “have yachts.” According to Hanson, those making between $200,000 and $500,000 are the “productive classes who want to be rich” (the 95% of Americans making less are not mentioned) and those making more are the corrupt elites. It’s a rather interesting view – quite Randian in its conclusion: “continue to punish and demonize [the productive classes], and the country will grind to a halt – as we are seeing now.”

More mature libertarians and conservatives often look at Rand through the somewhat rosy lens of adolescence when they first discovered her – but they find her theories to be fundamentally lacking. Hanson though seems to still view the world through this adolescent lens – and doesn’t realize how it sounds to claim that those who are still making $500,000 in the midst of this recession are deliberately grinding the economy to a halt because they feel demonized and burdened by paying a slightly higher percentage of their taxes than they did a few years ago (but still less than they did under Clinton, Bush I, or Reagan.)