You can see why Lloyd Blankfein doesn't like higher taxes on high incomes. But what about Joe the Plumber? How is it that people near the bottom of the social heap are so hostile to redistribution? The Economist reports on some fascinating new research that offers insight on the point. Turns out that it is not those above us who are our primary concern; it is those below us. And if you are near the bottom of the heap, you can take solace from the proposition that at least you are not at the bottom of the heap. Correspondingly, anything that tends to ramp up well-being for the scum of the earth just goes to obscure the distinction between the nice (us) and the not-so-nice (them). Quel humiliation.
It's a fascinating thesis and if it turns out to have legs it raises a fascinating meta-question. That is: if true, how come the chattering classes didn't figure it out long ago--how come it took a piece of NBER research to tell us? Are the chatterers (us) so out of touch with Joe the Plumber (them) that we can't even figure out what is bugging him?