June 1, 2014
WE ARE ALL THIRD WAY NOW
Unjust Deserts (J. Bradford DeLong, 5/31/14, Project Syndicate)
If you win the lottery - and if the big prize that you receive is there to induce others to overestimate their chances and purchase lottery tickets and so enrich the lottery operator - do you "deserve" your winnings? You are happy to be paid, and the lottery operator is happy to pay you, but the others who purchased lottery tickets are not happy - or, perhaps, would not be happy if their best selves understood what their chances really were and how your winning is finely tuned to mislead them.Do you have an obligation to spend your post-victory life telling everyone that what they really ought to do is put the money they spend on lottery tickets in an equity-heavy tax-favored retirement account, whereby, rather than paying the house for the privilege of gambling, they are in fact the house, earning 5% annually?
Now suppose that you are a public intellectual who knows that's what people should be doing with their money : don't you, likewise, have an obligation to advocate for public policies--like personalized SS accounts and HSAs--that do exactly that with the citizenry's money?
Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2014 9:03 AM