Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 30, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

TAXING MICHAEL NOVAK....Michael Novak has a very peculiar screed in NRO today. Among other things, he complains that liberals claim to "possess a superior degree of virtue," and that this is annoying. I agree: that surely would be annoying, wouldn't it?

But then I thought about this for a moment, and it struck me that Novak has it exactly backward: after all, it wasn't a liberal who wrote The Book of Virtues, was it? In fact, it seems to me that we are being forever lectured by conservatives about loose morals, lack of patriotism, insufficient work ethic, and disrespect for traditional family values. It is, in fact, conservatives who seem to think they possess superior virtue these days.

But let's dig deeper. What does he really mean?

And in what exactly does liberal virtue consist? In taxing other people, not oneself, people for whom one has contempt, in order to transfer their money to "the poor and needy."

Ah, it always comes down to that, doesn't it? Taxing the rich. And yet, just moments before Novak had shattered the myth that liberals are all a bunch of starving artists and ragamuffin academics: "As it happens, the political campaigns of the Left depend far more on high earners and big givers than the campaigns of the right."

So which is it? Are we merely in favor of taxing other people? Or are liberals themselves among the rich we are in favor of taxing? I'm confused.

Perhaps Novak would be better off with this simple thought: of course we want to tax "other people" to help the poor. And that includes ourselves. After all, who else can help the poor besides other people? Other people have all the money.

It's revealing, I think, that the subject that gets conservatives most apoplectic is the idea of taxing the rich and the implied suggestion that the tax-phobic rich are being just a wee bit selfish. Surely that can't really be the case, can it?

Conservatives have gotten a lot of mileage from the tired tropes that liberals hate the rich and don't truly care about the poor things that they know perfectly well aren't true. It's time to find something new.

Kevin Drum 8:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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