It is often said that capitalism—that is, a market economy—is morally obnoxious because its “trickle-down economics” inevitably creates inequality of income and wealth. Now it is certainly true that “trickle-down economics” has that effect. It is also true, however, that if you want economic growth and greater affluence for all, there is simply no alternative to “trickle-down economics,” which is just another name for growth economics.
The world has yet to see a successful version of “trickle-up economics,” an egalitarian society in which the state ensures that the fruits of economic growth are universally and equally shared. The trouble with this idea—it is, of course, the socialist ideal—is that it does not produce those fruits in the first place. Economic growth is promoted by entrepreneurs and innovators, whose ambitions, when realized, create inequality. No one with any knowledge of human nature can expect such people not to want to be relatively rich, and if they are too long frustrated they will cease to be productive. Nor can the state substitute for them, because the state simply cannot engage in the “creative destruction” that is an essential aspect of innovation. The state cannot and should not be a risk-taking institution, since it is politically impossible for any state to cope with the inevitable bankruptcies associated with economic risk taking.
— “Income Inequality Without Class Conflict”, Dec. 18, 1997, by Irving Kristol.
As spotted by Tom Blumer, who also compares and contrasts AP’s obits for Kristol and Teddy Kennedy.