The Public Interest

The potential of “trickle down”

Albert W. Alschuler

Spring 1969

MEN OF the left have been appropriating principles of the right (or what used to be considered such) on a wholesale basis in recent years. That is to say, men devoted to egalitarian ends have come increasingly to appreciate the “conservative” critique of government—at least of government by direct control, as opposed to government by the structuring of market incentives and cash transfers—as an instrument of social policy. The classic recent case, of course, is the negative income tax (NIT). Milton Friedman proposed it as a way of reducing the paternalistic, coercive work-disincentive, and dollar-cost aspects of public assistance. Liberals bought the concept and the first three criteria with alacrity, but they immediately set about conceiving NIT formulas that would radically increase the cost and sharpen the redistributive impact.

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