Critique of the Laffer/Bernstein Coverage

Jade Schiff

To the Editors:

One of the most effective tools of political persuasion is to convince an audience of one’s neutrality. One of the most important things that media outlets can do is to expose partisanship and subject it to criticism. Unfortunately, the reporters covering the Laffer/Bernstein debate failed to do this because they dangerously confused civility with nonpartisanship. Laffer and Bernstein “amicably shook hands,” and they “don’t hold any animosity.” That’s very nice. But they also offer fundamentally conflicting and thoroughly partisan views of the role of democratic governments in market economies. Bernstein advocates a limited welfare state. Laffer believes in a much smaller role for government including generally reduced taxation. These are not neutral positions. They presuppose fundamentally different views of the relationship between government and citizens. If we do not recognize these debates as political ones, we cannot make reasoned judgments about them, as befits a democratic citizenry.