Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the author of, most recently, "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures," and the Times best-selling books "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," and "Outliers: The Story of Success."
Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1996. He is the author of the Times best-sellers "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," "Outliers: The Story of Success," and "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures."
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell discusses America's dramatically changing notions of wealth and income inequality since the mid-twentieth century. Gladwell notes that during the nineteen fifties, American tax rates were ninety-one per cent on incomes over $200,000. "What's amazing is that, if you even bring this up now, people don't believe you," he says.
U.S. weekly magazine, famous for its varied literary fare and humour. It was founded in 1925 by Harold Ross, who was its editor until 1951. Initially focused on New York City's amusements and social and cultural life, it gradually acquired a broader scope, encompassing literature, current affairs, and other topics. Aimed at a sophisticated, liberal audience, it became renowned for its short fiction, cartoons, major (occasionally book-length) nonfiction pieces, and detailed reviews in the arts. It was sold in 1985 to Samuel I. Newhouse, Jr. (seeNewhouse family). Since Ross, its editors have been William Shawn (195287), Robert Gottlieb (198792), Tina Brown (199298), and David Remnick (from 1998).
In Response to Howard_Roark's initial post:
I believe that like most revanchists, you are probably serious about what you say. Although I agree with some of the things you say, I find the thrust of your arguments disconnected and divorced from the real world.
You imply that Malcolm Gladwell doesn't "think" ( e.g. "It doesn't matter how smart a person is if s/he doesn't stop to think." ). I don't agree with you. I think Gladwell is an excellent thinker, who supports his arguments with substance.
And although you may not want to identify yourself with the divisive, and what I consider anti-democratic smear tactics of propaganda media like Fox politics, you are clearly someone who HATES liberals. This seems ironic, maybe hypocritical to me, because this country is the embodiment of liberalism - at least in the past. I think this hate you feel is a destructive force with respect to both democracy and capitalism. I would not want to live in the stark dark country that you aspire to live in.
It's interesting to read the comments from the Ayn Rand fans who claim that taxation is legalized plunder. Nice philosophical arguments.
But here is my (and others')reality: I'm a type 1 diabetic (since age 7) without insurance, but I make too much to be eligible for medicaid. My medication costs upwards of $500 per month. My wife just went to the hospital the other day and rang up thousands in bills. Meanwhile, a $10,00 per night prostitution ring that served Wall Street traders was broken up in NYC.
It is UNACCEPTABLE for such drastic income inequality to exist in this country when citizens are without access to quality food, housing, and healthcare. Until that access is considered to be a human right in this country, I will support and encourage any form of "plunder" that equalizes the inbalance.
That's reality. And if some sane semblance of equality doesn't arise soon, I think the IRS will be the least of the wealthy's worries.
You begin from a false premise. While it is true that people must have the right to their own lives as well as their own labor* it is not true that all capital accumulation is the direct and commensurate product of such endeavor. One cannot with a straight face claim that the hundreds of millions slaving away in China in slave-like conditions, for one example, do not expend as much time, talent and energy as the world’s richest handful of billionaires.
*This being one of the criticisms of capitalism: it deprives human beings of their own right to free creation and free labor, it instead enslaves them to a system of wage-slavery where one either rents one’s labor or starves to death in the streets.
Let me get this straight. Are you saying that I have more control over how my government spends my money than I have over how a private charity spends my money?
That's interesting, because correct me if I'm wrong, I only get a chance to enter a voting booth once every two years. And when I do, I am given the Hobson's choice of voting for either: Politician A - the nanny-statist (i.e., the Democrat), or Politician B - the social-policy dictator (i.e., the Republican).
By contrast, when the Catholic Church condones its priests raping innocent boys and girls by looking the other way, I can immediately punish this institution by withholding my funds and allocating them elsewhere. The Pope does not have the power to put a gun to my head and demand my money or my freedom, unlike the IRS. The same is true when the United Way (or any other ostensible charitable organization) decides to waste my money by spending it on exorbitant salaries for its executive officers, because all I have to do is withhold my donations. Try doing that today on April 15th, and see what happens to you.
Furthermore, please explain to me how a lack of government welfare programs will inevitably lead to a religious organization filling the gap. There are plenty of religious organizations that help the poor, no doubt, but there are also many that are non-religious. While your historical argument may be correct that religious organizations provided the social safety net in the past, I see no reason why charitable giving would necessary take place solely through religious organizations absent the welfare state in the future.
Finally, your comment about "institutions that may only care about the appearance of good work rather than the doing" describes most government welfare policies quite nicely. Do you really believe the typical politician cares more about helping the poor than he does about helping himself get re-elected? How often do politicians stop and examine whether the pious intentions upon which their laws were written (and enforced) actually achieved their desired outcomes ?
- H. Roark
One often hears the argument that taxing the rich to pay for social services is equivalent to stealing purported in conservative circles. There is certainly a valid case to be made that certain kinds of government spending should elicit moral outrage, no thinking person would deny that. There is inefficiency, corruption, and misplaced incentives throughout.
But let's be honest, most social services throughout history were in the domain of religion. Feeding the poor, caring for the sick (minor medical care), counseling, work assistance, and more were handled by religious personnel and the social networks built by religious affiliation. This was all well and good in the days when tithing and church attendance were prevalent behaviors, but they are not very prevalent behaviors today. That sociological niche is paid for today by taxpayer money (which is very much a secular extension of the tithing concept).
If you take the government out of that business, you are telling the public that they must return to religious institutions for social assistance. Religious institutions that are likely to make their material support contingent upon your verbal support of their religion. Religious institutions that can dry up and disappear, as they sometimes do. Institutions that may only care about the appearance of good work rather than the doing. Institutions that may reward themselves too generously, but are accountable only to themselves. At least in government there is the authority (though vastly underused) to make people accountable for how the money is spent and a duty to serve all people, even those with whom you disagree.
There is corruption and waste in government social services, but we have a much better chance of refining them and finding something that works than we do just leaving all assistance up to private charity and hoping that because it's private they get everything right.
The root of the problem is really the culture of corruption. Both public and private institutions can be corrupt. The difference is that with public institutions the authority exists for the uncorrupted to come in and demand change, and there is in fact a healthy track record of this happening. The more transparent the government, the better. The Vatican has no Freedom of Information Act.
First of all, Thomas Sowell made a general statement that is axiomatic. I quoted him and applied it to Malcolm Gladwell's comments about progressive taxation, and I stand firmly by my statement.
Allowing a man to keep what he has earned is not selfish. It is simply an acknowledgement of an individual's inalienable right to private property.
Who is more selfish, the man who serves others for profit and keeps what he earns, or the man who does not serve others and enlists his government to steal money (i.e., private property) for his own benefit? Apparently, you have not read any of my subsequent comments, but I do support private, charitable giving, but only so long as it is voluntary . Charitable giving is indeed one of our nobler human motives.
Re: Childhood vs. Adulthood. Is the man who takes care of his own needs and accepts individual responsibility for his own actions (or lack thereof) a child, or the man who continues to suck off the tit of the nanny-state? Leftist paternalism breeds childlike behavior. Libertarians, by contrast, understand that freedom of choice means accepting the consequences when one does not choose well.
As for "fairness and justice," you might want to clarify what you mean by these terms. I am quite certain that you have an entirely different conception of what these words mean. To the libertarian, "fairness and justice" mean equal protection under the law. In other words, equal opportunity under the law. To the leftist, they mean equality of outcome, regardless of what a man has produced.
You wrote, "I submit that if everyone had your views the country and the world would devolve into uncivilized chaotic violent war." Quite the contrary! I believe there is a role for government to play, and it is to protect people from the force and fraud of others. The liberal-left believes in using government to commit force and fraud by robbing Peter to pay Paul (e.g., progressive taxation; spending on welfare, food stamps, etc.) The conservative-right does the same.
Which brings me to my final point regarding your comments about "Republicans and TP [Tea Party] ideals." There's no need to go there. I am not a conservative. This entire debate between Democrats vs. the GOP, or the right vs. the left is a complete waste of time. The real dichotomy is between authoritarians like yourself - who believe they know best how to run the lives of others, vs. libertarians (i.e., true liberals) like myself - who believe individuals know what is in their own best interest and should be free to act accordingly (including deciding how best to help those who are truly destitute).
- H. Roark
> Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer and an intelligent man, no doubt. But as
> Thomas Sowell pointed out in a recent interview with Peter Robinson
> (Aug., 2010), "It doesn't matter how smart a person is if s/he doesn't
> stop to think."
That is such an infantile character attack for Sowell to say at all, in any kind of
public discussion ... oh, those I disagree with just do not think. But, further it
is even worse for you to begin your criticism with because intuitively you are
starting your comments with an insult. Gladwell is very smart guy for being so
dumb. Then you continue for 12 paragraphs starting with "Progressive
taxation is nothing more than a euphemism for legalized plunder." An argument
that is another selfish reptilian-type non-thinking argument.
You are basically arguing that you don't like taxes. You can make the argument
that any form of taxes past every single person being responsible for chipping in
(voluntarily, of course) some fixed dollar amount, like $20,000 a year of taxes
and being able to ensure that that amount of money is spent proportionately on
them as well. We know intuitively that would not work, and taxing everyone at
the same percentage also doesn't work, and we do not do either of them. Even
the low grade of progressivity we have now does not work, and that is because
it creates political and economic classes with unequal power and nothing to
check that injustice.
You are not wrong to feel the way you do. A child is not wrong to be thoughtless
and selfish, that is just the way they a child is. In order to maintain civilization though
and some kind of fairness and justice, it is necessary for children to grow up.
I say children, because the problem an adult with solve relative to our tax problems
would be to analyze how much we can generate in taxes objectively and then looks
at government spending in terms of cost-benefit ratios and apply modern business
practices to improving and managing government programs. There is no inherent
difference in private and public arenas in terms of best practices. If there are problems
with government, then those problems should be described and discussed and fixed.
That Republicans do not participate in improvement of government is the clear
giveaway that they do not care about that, what they want is to control government,
that is all, and through government control the people. The whole Republican
agenda is dishonest, and backed up by lies, marketing slogans and money.
I submit that if everyone had your views the country and the world would devolve
into uncivilized chaotic violent war, through which a marginal number of people
would have to grow past their selfish childhood and re-learn and institute all the
things we Americans did learn that have apparently been attacked with the
backing of a lot of money and picking on the worst instincts of people.
I am for not going back to carrying things around by hand for some unknown
period in order to reinvent the wheel. Of course in this world progressive taxation
is the only way to run the country in far way. The consequences of not doing that
is to not have an America - and to the extent that Republican's and TP ideals are
being picked up we are losing our country.
Originally Posted by twonius
Unless you're name is Ben Bernanke (and I'm really praying it's not right now) No one produces a dollar in this economy without drawing value from other public goods. You can argue whether Medical care would be better provided under a more private system for the elderly and infirm but you can't argue that you yourself do no also benefit from the system. I don't think they have internet access that far from inhabited areas yet.
I don't know if it's been brought up yet, but "Howard Roark" is a main character from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead . More likely an employee of The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism than Ben Bernanke .
Edit: When my post took me to page 8, I saw the post above mine (I did not go through the full eight pages before commenting :/). I apologize for the superfluous post.
I was waiting to see how long it would take before someone made the connection between my screen-name and the hero of Ayn Rand's novel, "The Fountainhead." Yes, I plead guilty to being influenced by Ms. Rand. I have also been heavily influenced by numerous other classical liberals and libertarian thinkers, as some of the quotes I have cited will attest. If that makes me unoriginal, fine. However, that does not mean my argument is fallacious.
I don't see the distinction between survival and self-ownership. Perhaps, you could elaborate. Obviously, survival is our strongest natural instinct. It is shared (consciously or not) by every species on Earth. Without it, life would cease to exist. Human-beings are no exception. Every man has a strong vested interest in protecting his life, including those things which sustain his life . We call these "things" property (e.g., food, shelter, land on which to grow our food and build our shelter, etc.). Therefore, the principles of self-ownership and private property are inseparable from our survival instinct.
By what right does another man have a claim to that which I have produced? If I have already paid my taxes for the legitimate functions of government (i.e., public goods like the rule of law, police and military protection, etc.), I see no reason why I have a moral obligation to pay for another man's private goods (e.g., food, housing, healthcare, you name it).
While it is certainly laudable to help our fellowmen in need (something I do and encourage others to do), that does not mean other people have a right to conscript our government to force us to do so. To do that is to violate our natural rights. (Please note the distinction between positive liberty - i.e., "give me rights" vs. negative liberty - i.e., "leave me alone" rights. Positive liberty destroys negative liberty, but only the latter can properly be understood as natural rights.)
When you noted that not all societies share my core values, are you trying to suggest that there is no such thing as moral absolutism? I can't think of a moral principle more self-evident and universally shared than the right to self-ownership. People are fighting in the streets of Egypt as I write this, because they want the right to decide how best to live their lives. Meaning, they are fighting for negative liberty. Moral relativism is tantamount to having no moral principles at all.
The dilemma left-liberals face - when they take the time to think deeply about these issues - is that once the premise of self-ownership has been accepted, it is impossible to morally justify the welfare state. By contrast, the true liberal (of the classical or libertarian variety) does not suffer moral or cognitive dissonance, because he understands that private, voluntary charitable giving is not only consistent with natural law (the deontological argument), it is far more likely to actually achieve the desired outcome of providing help to those who truly need it (the consequentialist argument).
Is it any wonder that so many left-liberals take solace in Kantian ethics when their "social justice" policies inevitably fail to live up to the pious intentions upon which they were based? Stated differently, doesn't the motive matter most, even if the outcomes for real flesh-and-blood human-beings are disastrous?
I don't think so, but perhaps you do.
- H. Roark