No Marx for understanding Marginal Value

Seeing as it’s International Workers’ Day, it seems it’s only fitting to address an issue that some of my Republican friends like to raise. I was inspired to write about this on reading one of  Ferrerman’s posts, in which he revealed he gets the same question. That question being:

“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

Okay, so it’s rarely phrased that way anymore. In fact, it usually isn’t even a question; it’s an accusation. And, for the record, I haven’t been. “But that’s not good enough”, say the inquisitors; “are you sympathetic to them?”

Well, I think it would be good if wealthier people paid higher taxes. I believe that something ought to be done to help the poor people all over the world. And Marx also believed that something ought to be done to help the poor. And Marx believed in confiscating property from the wealthier classes.

“Ah-ha!” the Republican reader says to himself. “I knew it would come out eventually!”

There are some key differences, though. I don’t think, as Marx did, that private property is a bad thing. I think private property is a very good thing. I also don’t have a problem with people having more money than others. And I think his fixation on “class” issues is almost morbid. There will always be classes, so long as there are different kinds of people. Then there is his labor theory of value, which I think is just plain silly. So, on the whole, I am not a Communist. Or a Marxist.

But there is still that bit about making wealthier people pay higher taxes nagging at us, isn’t there? What sort of depraved mind would come up with such a scheme, if not a Marxist?

Well, it’s like this, you see: I am thinking of it in marginal terms. The marginal value of a dollar is much lower for a rich person  than it is for a poor person. Because the rich person has many dollars, one additional dollar doesn’t mean nearly as much to him as it does to the poor person. The same is true for a hundred dollars; which mean only a bit more than the one dollar to the rich guy, but a great deal to the poor guy. (I’ve read all this somewhere–John Rawls, probably.)

Now, I wouldn’t think of proposing so ridiculous an idea as everyone having exactly equal wealth. I don’t think anybody would. For one thing, it would cease to be true the instant someone bought something. It’s a straw-man argument when people say that.

It’s also not an issue of jealousy or resentment; I don’t favor these policies out of a desire to punish the rich or wage class-warfare; it is just that the whole system seems to work better when the rich pay higher taxes.

Well, hope I’ve cleared that up. If you don’t quite understand this yet, read this essay by Stephen King that Thingy linked to.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?