A survey, apropos Prof. Gaus’s use of survey research on fairness:
Seriously, what kind of riposte is it that “What de Jasay and so many classical liberals cannot bear is that an expansive welfare state has been supported largely because the majority of voters and politicians believe it is fair and just”?
65% of the voters and politicians believe that little green men crashed at Roswell.
It is true that in a democracy each of us is constrained to act in the way that most of us like. That’s why democracy is so dangerous.
Now, were I in a charitable mood (and, honestly, I never am), I might say that Prof. Gaus is simply pointing out that beliefs matter, and a claim that “we” (classical liberals) want simply to use force rather than persuading others that their views on fairness are wrong would seem to be contradictory.
It seems to me this should come down to a burden of proof argument. Is it really true that the ideal form of government is one that defines “fair” as “instate envy as a moral virtue, and take money at gunpoint from those who have earned it, and give it to others chosen by the majority?”
Why is it that the majority has presumptive right to decide such matters at all? True, the majority may be able to force its will as a matter of power, but the fact that majority of voters believe something makes it policy. It doesn’t make moral.
The welfare state is based on the idea that I can act on my own sense of guilt by giving other people’s money to the poor. I don’t see how one can read “I want to give other people’s money away” as a moral claim at all. It is a very simple consumption impulse, only without actually paying for your own consumption:
“I like hamburgers, and am willing to pay for them.”
“I think the poor should have more money, but I don’t feel this strongly enough to act on that impulse. I am, however, willing to give them some of yours.”