Jack Balkin says that the answer is no.
Balkin is correct that, technically, anyone who does not buy insurance under the new set of laws will only have to pay a tax (or as I prefer to think of it, a fine).? Only if they refuse to pay the fine will they then, eventually, be sent to jail as a tax evader.? Fair enough.? But the general point still remains.? If you do not comply with this new law – you will be sent to jail.? Being sent to jail for refusing to pay the fine is only morally different if the fine has some particular justification.
Balkin argues that the fine (or as he prefers to think of it, tax) is justified by free-rider problems:
If lots of people (and especially young and mostly healthy people) don’t buy health insurance, the cost of insurance goes up for everyone, and it is passed on to others in the form of higher premiums. In addition, people who don’t buy health insurance tend to wait until their health problems are severe and then use emergency services; they may contract communicable diseases (which they may pass on to others) or they may become disabled. All of these costs get passed along to others–in the form of higher premiums and higher costs for hospitals and insurers–or they have to be absorbed by federal and state governments through programs for the poor or the disabled.
So if you don’t buy health insurance, you are increasing costs for other people. The federal government is taxing you to recoup some of those costs. An analogy would be taxes on alcohol or tobacco, although these taxes are usually worked into the retail price of the goods so that people don’t even have the opportunity to refuse to pay them. Another example would be taxes on an enterprise that is creating additional costs to the environment through pollution; the government taxes you if you don’t purchase and install anti-pollution equipment.
Balkin skips more than a few steps with this analysis.? In significant part, health care free riding is only possible because there are laws that legalize free riding.? For example, the laws requiring hospitals to treat all emergency room visitors, regardless of their capacity/intent to pay, are an invitation for free riding.? The costs of treating any of these patients who do not pay will be passed on to all of the hospital’s paying patients.? If we really wanted to eliminate this free rider problem, we would just make people pay for their emergency room visits – or we would at least not require hospitals to receive people without insurance.
The current health care reform is not a brilliant scheme to end free riding.? In large part, it is an attempt to write more free riding into law.? It requires insurance companies to transfer health care costs from sick to healthy patients.? It enacts massive subsidies that transfer costs from the poor to the wealthy.? These transfers are very much like actual free riding, and they would not occur in an efficient insurance market that had no free riding.
Balkin shrugs and says that “tax policy does this all the time”.? And so it does.? And opponents of these subsidies are right to remind the rest of the electorate that their participation is not voluntary, but enacted through threat of imprisonment.? Health care reform is commonly assumed to be in everyone’s benefit, but this is of course not the case.? The threat of jail time lies behind every government “charity”.
Note: The below (long) post has little to do with current politics, but it may nonetheless be of interest to some of this blog’s readers.? It is a critique of “libertarian paternalism”, the program proposed by Richard Thaler and (Obama appointee) Cass Sunstein in their popular 2008 book Nudge.? I suspect, perhaps without warrant, that libertarian paternalism is merely the latest paint job applied by progressives to socialism.
I wanted to expand on one of the criticisms of Nudge that I have made elsewhere.? Namely, I criticize Thaler and Sunstein?s inability to dispense with the fundamental fact of subjective human preferences.
The authors refer to their preferred program as ?libertarian paternalism?.? I suspect this term is insincere, (perhaps merely an attempt to woo libertarians into more state-friendly territory?) since Thaler, for example, seems quite willing to endorse clearly non-libertarian paternalism.? But for argument?s sake I?ll use their nomenclature.? After all, the authors? inability to stand by their professed principles is not a rebuttal of those principles per se (though it does undermine their pat dismissal of slippery-slope arguments).
Facially, libertarian paternalism attempts to account for subjective preferences in its definition.? Paternalism, Thaler and Sunstein say, ?tries to influence choices in a way that will make choosers better off, as judged by themselves? (page 5).? This neat trick hangs subjective consumer preferences as the goal-point of all rigid government interventions.? But it gets us nowhere.
Any of the chapters could be used to demonstrate the inability of libertarian paternalism to choose a ?correct? direction in which to point consumers.? But the discussion of retirement planning (Chapter 6 ? ?Save More Tomorrow?) struck me as the most obviously futile.
Musing whether people save enough, the authors proceed accordingly (pages 108-109):
This turns out to be a complex and controversial question.? For one thing, economists do not agree about how much saving is appropriate, because they do not agree on the right level of post-retirement income.? Some economists argue that people should aim to have retirement income that is at least as high as the income enjoyed when working, because retirement years offer the opportunity for such time-intensive expensive activities as travel.? Retired people also have to worry about growing health care costs.? Others claim that retirees can use their greater time to live a more economical lifestyle: saving the money once spent on business clothes, taking the time to shop carefully and prepare meals at home, and taking advantage of senior discounts.
We do not take a strong position on this debate, but consider a few points.? It seems clear that the costs of saving too little are greater than the costs of saving too much.? There are many ways to cope with having saved too much?from retiring earlier than expected, to taking up golf, to traveling to Europe, to spoiling the grandchildren.? Coping in the opposite direction is less pleasant.? Second, we can say for sure that some people in our society are definitely saving too little?namely, those employees who are not participating at all in their retirement plan….? These folks could clearly use a nudge.
It is worth noting that the authors? language assumes that there are objective answers to the problem of savings (?how much saving is appropriate?, ?people should aim?, ?the costs of saving too little are greater?, ?for sure some are saving too little?).? This might be waved aside as a linguistic concession to readers perhaps unfamiliar with subjective preferences, were it not for the paternalistic proposal that followed.
Instead of taking an absolute objective position (that people should say X amount), Thaler and Sunstein pretend to abstain from judgment (?We do not take a strong position on this debate?), then immediately change gears and take a relative objective position!? Instead of arguing that people should say a specific amount, they argue that people should be subjected to incentives that will induce them to save more than they are currently saving.
This conclusion is absurd.? The authors are rightly unwilling to specify some ?correct amount? of retirement savings.? But absent any objective reference point, it is impossible to say whether people as a whole are spending too little.? Relative position is impossible to determine except in reference to an objective point.
Thaler and Sunstein attempt to pad their argument by referencing employer matching programs (pages 109-110):
For example, a common plan feature is that the employer will match 50 percent of the employee?s contributions up to some threshold, such as 6 percent of salary.
This match is virtually free money….
Some older American workers are also turning down ?free money??.? For such employees, joining the plan is a sure profit opportunity because they can join, then immediately withdraw their contributions without any penalty, yet keep the employer match.? Nonetheless, a study finds that up to 40 percent of eligible workers either do not join the plan at all or do not save enough to get the full match.
The existence of this ?free money? cannot, of course, justify further government intervention in savings.? Any aggregate windfall will vanish, like a mirage, if people attempt to capture it en masse.? As any economist will tell you, wages are determined by productivity.? Whether or not employees collect ?free money? is a salient factor in wages.? If more people claim the ?free money?, employers must lower wages for the elderly as a group to keep them equal to (an unchanged level of) productivity.
Moreover, these ?free money? programs likely only exist because governments have strong-armed businesses into offering them!? Thaler and Sunstein blithely accept this legislative bullying ? and nearly every regulation mentioned in the book.? But this begs the very question that the authors leave unanswered in the first place ? how much should people be saving?
Libertarian paternalism ought to reject government decisions to subsidize savers at the greater expense of consumers, if these decisions are based merely on the preferences of government bureaucrats (and we have not yet established other grounds for these programs).? The authors waste little time (for once) objecting to our government?s (non-libertarian paternalistic?) starting point in marriage laws, when they conflict with the obvious progressive goal of gay rights.? Yet more, not fewer, regulations are somehow warranted in retirement laws by consumers? ?irrational? decision not to adequately adjust to pre-existing costly (un-libertarian) government regulations that the authors never bother to justify in the first place.
The only reference Thaler and Sunstein make to consumers? retirement preferences, beyond their central appeal to the emotionally ?obvious?, is a halfhearted reference to survey data.? The authors elevate thin, aggregated poll responses into a demonstrated goal of all employees (page 108):
For what it?s worth, many employees say that they ?should? be saving more?.? It is easy to say that you ?should? be doing many good things?dieting, exercising, spending more time with your children?and people?s actions may tell us more than their words?.? But such statements are not meaningless or random.? Many people announce an intention to eat less and exercise more next year, but few say they hope to smoke more next year or watch more sitcom reruns.? We interpret the statement ?I should be saving (or dieting, or exercising) more? to imply that people would be open to strategies that would help them achieve these goals.
Of course, the authors do much more than ?offer strategies?.? They use consequence-free surveys conducted in artificial environments as a mandate for costly and inescapable regulation that will affect everyone.? And they could not do otherwise ? nothing but thin survey data could serve as an alternative to human action in determining subjective human preferences.? And a program of paternalism must reject human action as a valid basis of demonstrated preference.
This is the fundamental dilemma facing libertarian paternalists.? The paternalist must figure out what people want without reference to what people actually choose to do.? What method could possibly suffice for this?? The planner could suppose himself to simply know all preferences by virtue of his common humanity.? I expect that any program of well-intentioned paternalism will eventually regress to this level ? and the authors seem to concede this point.? But a shared human perspective does not, in itself, put a paternalist in a superior position to those he is regulating.? And, moreover, this sort of justification does not take seriously Thaler and Sunstein?s injunction that regulators make consumers better off as judged by themselves.
The only possible alternative to observed action (i.e., the market) is the survey.? It is perhaps not surprising that leftist intellectuals will favor programs that transfer authority from the market to the university psych study.? But whenever I see these proposals, I begin to suspect, as Megan McArdle likes to say, that somebody missed the socialist calculation debates.? The difficulties faced in determining preferences by poll are intractable.
As a warm-up, we have the problem of the contrapositive.? Any group of retiring consumers evaluating their position for a survey are ignorant of the opinion that they would have in some conceivable alternative position.? For example, consumers who save for their retirement cannot know the relative life satisfaction they would have if they had not saved for retirement.? Conversely, those who do not save are ignorant of the satisfaction that they would experience in the hypothetical alternative where they had saved.? Even if consumers in both situations agreed that one of the situations was preferable (for example, if both the spendthrift and the miser agreed, upon retirement, that being miserly were better) this would simply be agreement between two ignorant parties.? Their agreement would lack the objectivity reserved for the impossible individual who simultaneously experienced both alternatives (whose own judgment could yet be assailed as dynamically inconsistent!).
In any event, if the choice is made by those who have already retired, it cannot represent the preferences of those who have not yet retired.? Thaler and Sunstein avoid this and the above problem by reporting prospective, rather than retrospective, survey data.? Individuals choosing for their future remain ignorant of their actual future satisfaction, but they at least avoid the bias of uneven ignorance of outcomes inherent to the retiring, retrospective choosers. ?In this sense, the surveys are more like human action and the market.? But insurmountable difficulty remains.
Nudge recognizes that the answers that individuals give in a survey are strongly influenced by the circumstances in which the survey is conducted.? The authors? paternalistic program is, in fact, supposedly justified by this inconsistency.? On page 24, the authors note that survey respondents rated their overall happiness lower if they were first asked about their dating lives.? On page 36, they note that decisions and assessments are strongly influenced by ?framing effects? ? e.g. whether a glass is portrayed as half-full or half-empty.
So what environment is most appropriate for conducting surveys?? Should they be result-oriented?? Should the government ask questions about savings in environments aimed at encouraging support for retirement programs, as the authors encourage corporations to do throughout the book?? But this would simply assume as objective the preference that surveys are supposed to determine.? Should surveys occur in some sort of ?neutral? setting, with the pollee isolated, listing and ranking preferences as they occur to him, without any input from the pollers?? Aside from the difficulty there would be in aggregating this sort of data, why would we expect a complete and careful result from this low-pressure survey?? Why would we even expect a lack of bias ? wouldn?t the individual simply bring in with him whatever biases that clung to him the particular day of the survey?
Is the idea of a ?neutral? polling methodology coherent?? Thaler and Sunstein give no indication that it is.? So what exactly are they trying to accomplish?? Do mutable survey results give them license to simply cherry pick the one whose results they like and then ?nudge? people in a direction that was never really anything other than their own subjective preference?? If surveys ever did manage to become truly objective and comprehensive, they would likely need to be as long and onerous as those that interwar socialists of the economic calculation debates imagined would replace markets as a preference transmitting device in the Soviets? communist paradise.
Lest this piece become a novella, I want to comment on only one more problematic feature of surveys.? There is one inescapable difference between decisions made for a psych study and decisions made in the market.? You might call it a ?framing effect?, and it is one that seriously undermines the authority of all survey results.? Survey respondents do not conceive of their answers to surveys as being actual life choices. The most fundamental difference between surveys and action makes the former an unacceptable substitute for the latter.? Paternalists can only make their surveys like actual choice by discarding the surveys altogether and just permitting the market to run its course.? Instead, Thaler and Sunstein seem ready to tilt the playing field whenever a survey yields a result different from the market, as if unaware that this might simply reveal a deficiency in surveys.
A final, perhaps ill-placed, note.? Some readers may object to my use of the terms ?interference? and ?regulation? throughout this piece.? Thaler and Sunstein pretend or imply, for most of Nudge, that their interventions are ?costless? or ?nearly costless? (?nearly? being another arbitrary term open to interpretation by ? who else? ? the paternalist).? But they confess as early as page 8, in a footnote, that their interventions are not actually costless:
Alert readers will notice that incentives can come in different forms.? If steps are taken to increase people?s cognitive effort?as by placing fruit at eye level and candy in a more obscure place?it might be said that the ?cost? of choosing candy is increased.
This puts the matter too tentatively.? It must be said that increasing cognitive effort increases costs!? All costs ? from hard physical labor to selecting food in a cafeteria are ultimately experienced by individuals in terms of ?cognitive effort?.? Imposing costs in terms that are not monetized obscures but does not reduce them.? It does, of course, deny citizens a quite useful measuring heuristic: prices.? In World War II, for example, governments hid the monetary costs of maintaining large standing armies by drafting millions of men, instead of hiring them at the market wage.? In advocating for the imposition of non-monetary costs, Thaler and Sunstein merely join a storied bureaucratic tradition of dissimulation.
One often hears that this or that political statement traffics in ?coded? racist imagery.? McCain commercials showing white women or black men or even white men used coded racial imagery.? Libertarians complaining about ?government thugs? must be appealing to coded racist terminology.? Political cultural cliches are inevitably a racist code.? Fears about redistribution are really coded fears of racial redistribution.? As Matthew Yglesias puts it:
Well, obviously you could read just about anything as a coded racist appeal. And I think a case could be made that you?d be right to.
But what good is code?? Self-described racists like the Aryan Nation don?t bother to traffic in codes ? they rely on explicit appeals to racial solidarity.? If racists made up a vast majority, or even a large plurality, of the committed opposition to President Obama, couldn?t they more effectively communicate their complaints to each other without relying on obscure and hard to understand codes?? A code only increases the costs of political coordination.? Only those who take the time to deconstruct the racial meanings will get the message.? Or, you can only find the racism if you are looking for it.
Inevitably, this means that progressives will crack the code first.? As remarkable as it may seem, few conservative or libertarian Americans support candidates and movements merely for the strength of their rhetoric?s racist undertones.? If they did, they would have candidates and movements with worse actual tones ? much more relevant to the only vaguely political majority that they must win over.? The cost of good racist codes would be the opportunity cost paid in foregone good rhetoric.? Progressives, on the other hand, are generally disinterested in absorbing core conservative or libertarian beliefs.? Policing rhetoric for accidental racial double-entendres is much more politically fruitful.
Cryptologist-in-Chief Jimmy Carter recently determined that ?an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a Black man.?? He is not alone, judging from Politico?s Arena. Progressives, as usual, can see far more racism than conservatives.? James Zogby explains how they do it:
Look at the signs, read the slogans, listen to the speeches, look into the eyes of the marchers and taunters!
I was present at the 9-12 DC rally against President Obama, so perhaps I am a part of the ?intensely demonstrated animosity?.? I certainly didn?t feel like a violent, hate-filled, racist troglodyte.? More like a cheerful, hopeful, freedom-loving idealist.? And that?s how I interpreted the crowds around me.? Perhaps Zogby knows better than I do.? Or perhaps when our methodology consists in ?looking into the eyes? of our opponents, we see just what we want to.
I was at the anti-progressive rally in Washington yesterday.? The crowd was large and friendly, and the signs were mostly very clever.? I did see one or two that were less than impressive ? notably one that had, among other pictures, a depiction of Obama in some sort of Amazonian tribal garb (I was not close enough to figure out what statement exactly the sign was trying to make).? As I had suspected would be the case, the vast majority of Obama=Hitler posters (few as they were) were manned by LaRouchePac (a group of culty quasi-communists and NOT part of the conservative or libertarian movements).
Gadsden and American flags were present in rough parity, an important thing, I think.? The former glosses the latter.? We were not celebrating America because we love its habitual massive deficits and over-weaning federal bureaucracy, its massive welfare state transfers and labor-corporate patronage system, its decaying global military hegemony, its nativist xenophobia, or its puritanical persecution of recreational drug? consumers and producers.? We were celebrating our nation to the extent that it was founded on revolt against intrusive interference by arbitrary powers.
Socialists of all parties, don?t tread on us!
If you dislike the service and selection provided at your local Borders book store, you can use another merchant.? You can go to Barnes and Noble, or a small independent book-seller, or buy from Amazon.? If you don?t like the cheeseburgers at McDonald?s, you can go to Five Guys for lunch instead.? If your apartment is lousy, you can search around for a new one.? If you don?t like your doctor, you can get referred to a different one.? If you don?t like your employer, you can switch jobs.? If you don?t like your friends, you can hang out with other people.? If you don?t like your girlfriend, you can break up with her.
But if you don?t like your current government, you have to find a new country and a new bookstore, burger place, apartment, doctor, job, friends, girlfriend, and more.? You may have to learn a new language, and you will have to make expensive travel arrangements and pay shipping costs for whatever possessions you want to bring along.
This is the monopoly power of government.? There are high costs to shifting the system of laws under which we live, costs that allow our government to charge us far more for the security it provides than the cost of providing it.? These costs are exacerbated by our uncertainty, risk aversion, and limited individual knowledge of our alternatives.? The ?shareholders? of government ? some members of the controlling majority ? may benefit from the profit created by this monopoly power.? Or they may not,? if multiple overlapping majorities simultaneously extract different ?profits? from different groups.? But as a whole, society always suffers.? Economists would say that there is a ?dead-weight loss?.
From this monopoly point of view, the efficient government is one that is not able to price above its cost.? This might be achieved by states so small that people could hop between them without having to change the other circumstances of their lives.? Or it might be fostered by radical decreases in transportation costs.? If a man could live in London and work in New York without suffering any travel costs (time or money), both countries would have less leverage over him.
It is hard to predict what types of laws and regulations would be adopted by the competitive state.? But one thing seems clear.? The redistributive burden thrown on the most productive citizens of a state represents no competitive pricing of the services it provides them.? It is a monopolistic extraction of profit and odious to any person who would have a state treat its citizens equally.
Public-plan proponents have feigned ignorance of how such an option would crowd out the public market.? The answer is simple: a public plan would be a political, not a market, entity.? Its justification is premised on a belief that the insurance market is not competitive and that insurers price oligopolistically, retaining excessive profits.? Even if this were true, the public plan would have no way of knowing when it had priced away its more efficient market competitors’ oligopolistic profits.? It would not know that it had destroyed these “inefficient” profits until it had lowered its premium prices to a level too low for private insurers to match.? Or, as a flowchart:
It is inevitable that the government will stack the deck in favor of its own offering.? Even if it is not openly subsidized, the public plan will almost certainly be able to outsource expensive administrative duties to government bureaucracies with their own operating budgets.? It will likely have powers to impose its prices on providers that its private competitors will not.? And it is absurd to think that the government would simply allow its plan to disappear if it failed to operate within its budget.? The public plan’s political structure and mandate to drive down prices blindly guarantees that a bailout will be needed sooner rather than later.
My center-right friends frequently try to avoid taking a position on abortion.? “It should be decided by the states,” they say – and then refuse to elaborate.? I understand why they want this to pass for a fully fleshed position.? They agree with social conservatives that Roe v. Wade is an atrocious decision and don’t want to alienate party allies by explicitly rejecting their substantive claims (that abortion is like the holocaust, that life begins at conception).? They don’t care much about abortion either way – so they don’t want to debate it.
It is as if we have been transported to the 1850s, and Stephen Douglas is preaching the doctrine of “popular sovereignty” once more.? But it should be clear that this is not a position on the substance of the issue.? If and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, people will be forced to talk about the morality of the abortion.? “States’ rights” do not end the debate – they just shift it to a new forum.? So when the states are legislating again, which side will you be on?? Here my friends try to refuse to answer, as if state politics were so insignificant that people with fully formed political ideologies could still afford to ignore them.
I sympathize with my friends.? Like them, I’m fairly ambivalent about abortion but hate Roe v. Wade.? Overturning it may even have some value to the pro-choice community.? As long as the decision is controlling precedent, anti-abortionists can pass the most absurdly expansive laws (prohibiting abortion in the case of rape, prohibiting it in the first trimester, etc.) without confronting their reality.? But once their laws are real, many in the pro-life movement will blanch at the consequences of what they advocate – who wants widespread murder prosecutions against poor, single, teen-aged girls?? Meanwhile, the sizable center will be satisfied when they pass laws against mostly irrelevant procedures like partial-birth abortions.
But obfuscation should not be a conservative goal.? When we convince the religious that states’ rights is an abortion position, they assume that we support their total-abolition agenda and ramp up their intransigence.? Progressives make the same assumption and react by doubling down on Roe.? We cannot move forward with states’ rights until we have convinced people that states’ rights is not a position on abortion.
Via a socially conservative friend, I received this Op-Ed by Kevin Sabet arguing against pot legalization. In support of his thesis that ?the price of legalizing pot is too high?, he points to these statistics:
Accidents would increase, healthcare costs would rise and productivity would suffer. Legal alcohol serves as a good example: The $8 billion in tax revenue generated from that widely used drug does little to offset the nearly $200 billion in social costs attributed to its use.
Let?s ignore for today the problematic use of alcohol statistics to predict the effects of marijuana use. But if alcohol is such a dehabilitating drug, why don?t we accept the wisdom of alcohol prohibition? Sabet doesn?t so much as hint that a return to prohibition would be desirable. My friend who forwarded me the article was also opposed to the idea (?But I like drinking alcohol,? he explained).
But still, $200 billion dollars is a lot of money. What?s the breakdown of that cost? Apparently 14% is for health care, 13% is law-enforcement expenditures, and the remaining 73% is [a particular breed of male cow dung].
Or ?lost productivity?, to be exact. I can?t be troubled to look up exactly how the government imagines together this figure, but I assume that it represents more or less the lost work-force participation or reduced efficiency of those who consume drugs.
You might as well complain about the ?lost productivity? caused by workers taking unpayed vacations. If workers prefer vacation to longer hours, it is because they prefer the utility of the vacation to the utility of the extra wages. Drugs are no different. If we (somehow costlessly) forced people not to consume alcohol, the wages they would gain from their renewed productivity just wouldn?t be ?worth? as much to them. Or else why do people naturally prefer the alcohol?
So $200 billion is not a high enough cost for Kevin Sabet to even tentatively suggest alcohol prohibition. Subtract out the bullshit, and the figure is a lot closer to $50 billion. If the imaginary costs of drugs don?t justify prohibition, the smaller real costs don?t either. Nor do such carelessly unconsidered arguments justify pot prohibition.
Matthew Yglesias gives a pretty standard defense of a public health care plan:
A public option that strives to achieve public goals?quality care at an affordable price?will challenge private industry to do a better job. Then competition between plans will drive improvements in quality and efficiency. Without a public option, the risk is that private plans will compete by trying to screen out sick patients. That?s a viable root to private sector profits, but it does nothing to improve quality or control costs.
Yglesias treats ?quality and efficiency? and ?screening out sick patients? as mutually exclusive routes to profit.? But they are not.? The free market is not simply satisfied with one source of profit to the neglect of others.? Firms will try to cut both kinds of costs – the costs of treating the sick and the costs of treatment in general. They make more money that way.
A public plan does not solve the dilemma of paying for sick policy holders.? If the private market prices them out into the public plan, the public plan will be forced to pay for its higher average patient costs through premiums or subsidies.? When the public plan raises premiums, the healthy will flee to cheaper private plans, perpetuating the cycle.? When it subsidizes the treatment of the sick, it does not ?control? costs (in fact, a subsidy incentivizes more consumption of health care, increasing overall costs), it justs forcibly redistributes them.
If there is truly no competition in the health care market (a possible explanation for ?buried treasure? health care profits – all we have to do is start digging), the most likely culprit is the maze of state regulations that segment the national market and shackle insurers with mandates.? The actual solution to this problem is to break down state barriers and reduce the number of regulations and mandates – but this answer does not lead to a redistributive system, so progressives will ignore it.
The chart?s title pretty clearly indicates the intended answer to Andrew?s question (which class is most charitable?): the poor.
I might, however, have included the somewhat relevant figure of actual average amount given to charity by each income group (calculated as average income times giving as percent of income):
Each richer income group appears to give more to charity than the next poorer group.? The rich give the most to charity, and the poor give the least.
If someone truly cares about charitable giving, they ought to desire that as many people as possible should move into the ?less generous? groups.? Fetishizing the poor as the ?most generous? group is a rather banal demonstration of the too-human tendency to confuse intentions with results – when results are clearly the desired metric.