“If you want to grapple with something that bothers me about political conservatism in the economic sphere, it is what seems to me to be a commitment to the trickle-down thesis. The idea is that lowering the tax burden on the higher economic levels will stimulate the economy in general, create jobs, and benefit the people down the scale. I think this is the heart of what the Republicans are using Joe the Plumber to illustrate.”
i) It’s true that conservatives often justify deregulation and lower corporate tax rates on the grounds that this will benefit more people in the long run.
Since that’s a pragmatic argument, it’s fair to judge the argument on pragmatic grounds.
Mind you, even at a pragmatic level, we need to distinguish between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. The argument is not that you should be a beneficiary of corporate prosperity regardless of what you do.
Microsoft is an engine of job-creation, both in terms of direct employment and support services. This doesn’t mean that if you choose to be a sluggard, you should still prosper from the prosperity of Microsoft.
ii) However, Reppert misses a deeper issue. This was nicely captured by a book which Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel coauthored, bearing the provocative title: The Myth of Ownership.
By contrast, conservative economics is based on the right of private property. Whether or not your wealth benefits anyone else, as a rule, what you earn belongs to you.
Now, that's not a moral absolute. There’s a sense in which natural resources are the common property of the human race. No one owns all the drinking water or oxygen. People can also agree to pool their resources, although that's voluntary.
From a Christian standpoint, God is the landlord, while we are his tenants.
Likewise, if you’re enriching yourself by impoverishing others, then that is unjust.
Finally, a certain amount of gov’t is necessary to secure the right of private property. But that’s quite different from the welfare state.
All things being equal, no one else has a claim on your wages. There’s a word for that: theft.