… is from page 274 of the original 1972 edition of the late Peter Bauer’s invaluable collection, Dissent on Development; specifically, it’s from Bauer’s 1967 paper “Economics as a Form of Technical Assistance”:
With few and normally irrelevant exceptions, incomes represent payments to owners of productive resources for services supplied, and not money extracted from others without return. The contrary view that incomes, especially those of certain groups, are somehow extracted from other people, is politically influential, popular and appealing.
DBx: Ordinary people are not sociopaths. But all are self-interested and nearly all are ignorant of economics. These latter two traits combine to make ordinary people open to the rants of those who, greedily seeking power, tell ordinary people that some others – for example, Jews, immigrants, high-income capitalists, or low-income foreign workers – enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary persons. Easily convinced that this fallacy is factual, too many ordinary people willingly grant power to those seeking it in the hopes that this power will be selflessly used by those invested with it to seize wealth from the predatory others and return it to its rightful and righteous owners.
Of course, such demonization of others and promises-to-seize-and-‘redistribute’ figured prominently among the reasons for the rise to power of beasts such as Lenin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, and Chavez. But this political move is not practiced only by totalitarians. Ordinary politicians in functioning democracies routinely practice it, if (usually) in more moderate tones and constrained by cultural attitudes and legal traditions that prevent the kinds of full-blown horrors visited upon places such as Soviet Russia and communist Cuba.
Listen to Bernie Sanders. To Elizabeth Warren. Listen, indeed, to any Democratic aspirant to the U.S. presidency. “Elect me and I’ll give you free stuff paid for by richer people who don’t deserve what they have and who do deserve to be fleeced” – such is their message. (That this message is interpreted by many as being both “Progressive” and reflecting selflessness remains, to me, astonishing.)
Donald Trump is no better. “With me in office, I’ll restore to patriotic Americans the riches unjustly denied to them by foreigners who export to America and by foreigners who immigrate to America.”
At work here is the criminal mind appealing to the childish mind. And this reality isn’t altered by calling such appeals “Progressive” or because the likes of the New York Times and Ivy-League professors compose rococo justifications for such predatory behavior – or by calling such appeals “conservative nationalism” and wrapping them in economically ignorant, and historically uninformed, tales of how America, once great, is being undermined by “globalists” and “free-market purists.”
Sad, and scary.