Federalist Society LiveBlog: Professor Richard Epstein- Transcript and Video

November 12th, 2009


I am grateful I am not a member of YLS faculty. Coppage v. Kansas that collective bargains was unconstitutional taking of property. Old court thought that distribution should take place through tax system and not alteration of contract and Tort. Problem is difficult becuase people don’t believe that. We are all Lockeans. We acquire through first possession. Don’t need to do anything to acquire right to use own labor. Why is redistribution hard topic? We don’t know what the term means. We know the moral case why there is a case for redistribution.

Moral case- People acquire property through occupation and labor. Is there a way we can make social improvement?

I have never seen anyone make idea of redistribution of wealth should be banned.

At height of Laissez Faire, heigh of voluntary transactions of transfer of wealth. Regarded as moral obligation enforced by social sanctions, and supported by conscience.

If people accept redistribution voluntarily, next question, can we take a moral intuition, and transfer it into a set of legal obligations? This is where the problem begins. These are problems not knock-out blows.

Epstein proposes “Redistribution Last.” First task to create social order is to handle poverty through production of wealth. There will still be laggards but by increasing size of the pie voluntary transactions will improve the issue.

What is the optimal level of redistribution? What is method to solve it? Lacunae in progressive tax? Epstein is a defender of flat tax, but I won’t defend it here. Steve Forbes Chuckles.

$250,000 doesn’t get you very far in NYC. Wealth a bad measure of what one has. Many young doctors who earn $250K and have lots of debts because they deferred income earlier on and will pay back with future earnings.

How do you know you will only do redistribution that makes sense, so that transfers from haves to have nots. Public choice difficulties where redistribution goes in wrong direction for wrong reasons.

Monopoly industry, huge transfer of wealth from consumers to producers, and creation of debt weight loses. Economics 101.

Agricultural subsidies “profound and horrible mistake” to protect farmers against world’s price markets. Remain in business too long, become politically entrenched, raise prices to cause inconvenience.

Minimum wage causes massive unemployment, people knocked out of jobs. Recent raises in minimum wages, net effect is high increase of teenage unemployment among member of minority groups.

Don’t ask how to dole out things? Ask how government got the things to dole out?

What state can do is vastly different.

“Redistribution last is the way to organize the social order.”

“Those who do not understand the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I was having debate with Sunstein, Obama was most retrograde intellectual to ever run for office

Obama policies: Tariff barriers, high tax policies, strengthen level of union monopoloy (Chard Check). Epstein plugs his book, and offers Andy Stern a copy. Reading my book will be on of the most productive things you’ve done in years. Epstein FTW!

In post-war era, no major New Deal reforms.

21st century is a validation of wisdom of Adam Smith.

If you want to create jobs, shut down every act, repeal NLRA!  [HUGE APPLAUSE]

Consider consumer surplus create. $50 billion Bill Gates gives to charity is chicken feed when you compare it to the consumer surplus he created. When you go after rich kill consumer suprplus.

Rationales behind natural law and start in world where no one has any rights and then to figure out how to organize society in a way that includes what goes on. Improve overall status of human beings by voluntary transactions.