The masses can be beneficiaries of our network of compulsory transfers even if they would be better off without them. If that sounds crazy, consider neighbouring countries, Farmerland and Robberland. Every now and then a party of Robbers raids Farmerland and steals some of their sheep. It could be that, over the long run, the residents of Robberland would be better off if they stopped these raids. Nevertheless, so long as the raids continue, the transfer is clearly from Farmerland to Robberland.
It has become increasingly common for such concerns to take a Malthusian form. The world, it is said, will struggle to feed a population that looks set to grow to 9 billion by mid-century. This argument, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the pessimism of the elite. It fails to appreciate that people are producers as well as consumers. Each individual is not just another mouth to feed but another brain that can exercise ingenuity and a pair of hands that can reshape the world.
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