I’m not a fan of either Ben Shapiro or Fox News, but this discussion between Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro on the latter’s show last Sunday was a breath of fresh air – not from Shapiro, who repeated the usual conservative talking points on income inequality, but from Carlson, who to my surprise challenged the standard narrative from the Right on that issue on a number of points. Around 17:00, he starts talking about the hypocrisy of Uber’s moral posturing about the various social issues of the day in conjunction with its refusal to cover its employees’ health insurance, to which Shapiro responds with the standard capitalist reply: if Uber provided its employees with health insurance, they’d have to hire fewer employees, and costs for rides would rise. This is true, of course, but Shapiro acts as if this somehow constitutes an adequate reply to Carlson’s larger point – that Uber treats its workers badly in order to increase profits – when in fact it simply amounts to an affirmation of what Carlson is saying. Carlson is talking about society’s moral obligations, while Shapiro is responding with an economic analysis.
When Shapiro does get around to actually addressing the moral side of the question, he argues that private charity is the moral answer to Carlson’s claim that the elites have obligations to the less-fortunate, essentially repeating William F. Buckley’s claim in his debate with George Wallace. Some things never change, and the insistence on part of the Right that private charity can supply the needs that government assistance currently does are, if possible, even more laughable now than in Buckley’s day, in an age of soaring healthcare costs and college tuition.
There’s much more that could be said, including Carlson’s striking admission around 19:00 that he’s self-consciously defending some of Bernie Sanders’ objections to the current system, but I recommend watching the entire interview for yourself.
“We just elected Donald Trump president, as if you needed clearer indication that there is profound, not just dissatisfaction, but unrest. You would not elect Donald Trump president unless you were enraged and desperate…I just think policymakers should never avert their eyes from the goal, which is a stable society…So this is the Heritage Foundation argument – ‘you’re worried about the poor, they have three color TVs!’ I get it. But that’s missing the point. What you want is a society that is cohesive, where everyone feels part of the same thing. You don’t want the people who are making the huge majority of the important decisions to be completely cut off from everyone.”