the national interest

Liberal Hypocrite Purchases Home

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during a press conference in Caracas on October 9, 2012. Chavez pledged to become a
Not pictured: Slate blogger Matthew Yglesias Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Slate economics blogger and frequent Chait blog frenemy Matthew Yglesias — who is left of center but in an often contrarian, Slate-y way — has purchased a condo in Washington. It’s pretty nice, fetching a $1.2 million price. Some of our brightest conservative minds believe that this is hypocrisy, because liberals don’t believe anybody should have anything nice. Or something. I’ll let them explain.

Conservative blog Ace of Spades and the Daily Caller gleefully seize on this Yglesias tweet:

… to argue — or, more precisely, emit argument-esque sentence utterances — like, “I’m sure he won’t mind if we crash the joint, what with that myth of owning private property and all” and ““You didn’t build that, and you don’t own that. The government is just letting you borrow it.”

Let me try to explain this to you, conservative bloggers. There are people who believe in the abolition of private property and having all goods distributed by the state.

Yglesias is definitely not one of those people. His argument about ownership does not imply that nobody should own anything. It merely implies that people don’t have a right to the entirety of their market income so absolute it makes redistribution immoral. The market itself is a construct of the state, and therefore the state can legitimately redistribute some income from the rich to the poor, though the appropriate amount of redistribution depends on 

You’re not following me here, are you? You’re imagining Sarah Palin naked again.

Okay, let’s move on to Breitbart media’s Ben Shapiro, who has performed more research in his attempt to find a smoking gun, but has astonishingly managed to process said information in an even less intelligent way. Here is the result of Shapiro’s oppo research:

Yglesias is the same fellow who wrote back in 2012 that high-cost government entitlements were necessary in order to rectify income inequality. “[Economic] gains have been very concentrated, and so if we’re going to afford that stuff a large share of the revenue has to come from the people who’ve gotten the money,” Yglesias wrote. And back in 2011, Yglesias stated, “We have a lot of things that we could do that would be very conducive to growth. You know, for the poorest, I think the example historically shows that you sometimes just need to tax people more and give them more money, and give them more social services.”

This is all routine stuff for leftists. But Yglesias goes further. He says “We pay our doctors way too much.” He says that high level executives get paid disproportionately.

But … guh … what does this have to do with anything? He’s arguing that rich people should pay somewhat higher tax rates. He’s not saying they should be forbidden from purchasing homes. He’s not saying rich people are bad or should not exist.

The hilarious part is where Shapiro, in classic Breitbart style, explains how Yglesias “goes further” than even the crazy left-wing belief that rich people should pay slightly higher taxes. Yglesias believes that doctors get paid too much money! That commie!

Now, even if you consider this some Chávez-esque expression of bitter class warfare against lousy rich doctors, it hardly implies that a journalist should not be allowed to make a high salary or spend it on a home.

In any case, the smoking gun column expresses no such thought. If you follow the link, it’s to a column Yglesias wrote advocating cuts to payments under Medicare. His argument is that Medicare has caused cost inflation in the medical business and should spend less money. I realize that conservatives have come to see doctors as heroic capitalist heroes in the fight against socialized medicine, but Yglesias’s argument here is exactly as left wing in principle as arguing that teachers get paid too much. That is, it’s not left wing at all.

It’s almost enough to make me think that conservative pundits have some kind of general problem grasping any middle ground between absolutist Randian defenses of inequality and socialism.

Update: To continue an idea I mentioned on Twitter, there’s a much smarter and more persuasive conservative angle to the Yglesias home story:

Fancy House + Low-paid profession + Hispanic surname = Probable drug lord.

Go for it, Breitbart! I’ll get you started. Yglesias has publicly advocated “helicopter drops,” even writing a post headlined, “No Law Against Helicopter Drops.” What does he have in mind? Do I have to spell it out for you? Look:

This thing ends with James O’Keefe sneaking into Yglesias’s manse with a hidden recorded looking for footage him sniffing mounds of blow.

Liberal Hypocrite Purchases Home