In Slate, the usually foolish Matt Yglesias holds true to form by demonstrating why we shouldn’t allow liberals to make public policy based on what they consider fairness. He points to the “mega-yacht” that Steve Jobs commissioned long before his death as “a valuable reminder of the best argument for reducing economic inequality.”
The absurdity of these watercraft and the fact that there’s clearly a large positional element to the race to acquire them (the goal is to have the awesomest yacht in the marina not necessary to meet any absolute standard of yachtness) shows that beyond a certain point it becomes extremely difficult to transform additional money into additional happiness.
What a revealing assertion. That Yglesias thinks he knows what makes people happy, or even whether Jobs was chasing happiness when he decided to build this thing, is typical of liberals who believe they know what’s best for everyone.
As Brad DeLong writes “The time and energy and work devoted to making, toasting and serving a $40 bagel at the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street in Manhattan would, in a more equal America, buy a full dinner for four at Sizzler Steakhouse for a family to whom going to Sizzler is a once-a-month treat – and thereby produce more human happiness.”
By the same token, one man’s super-yacht could have been more spacious accommodations for a dozen regular families.
The notion that the economic pie is fixed, with the size of “one man’s” piece determining how much remains for everyone else, is absurd on its face—and is in fact debunked by this very yacht.
Given that Jobs died a year ago, the craft’s construction was the full employment act for some shipbuilding company over at least a two-year period, possibly much longer. And the jobs created weren’t minimum-wage. Dozens, if not hundreds, of men and women whose advanced skills went into every detail of this yacht were paid quite well—and their wages soon became mortgage payments, insurance, dry cleaning, food, gasoline, income taxes, savings deposits, etc.
Which is to say that this private-sector yacht Yglesias preferred to see as free housing for “regular families” actually grew the economy for regular families.
Why it grew the economy of the Netherlands, rather than the United States, is the real story here. But one suspects that Yglesias wouldn’t have liked what he found, if he’d bothered to look.
As for the hourly wages of the person who toasts and serves a $40 bagel “in a more equal America,” Yglesias is apparently endorsing a $400/hour minimum wage. How’s that? It takes five minutes to toast and serve a bagel (plus a prorated 30 seconds or so for someone else to mix and bake the bagel in a large batch), while a dinner for four at Sizzler costs about that same $40.
Do the math. Please. Doing the math is a job that Americans like Yglesias refuse to do.