overrun with socialists, many of whom aren't that way out of ignorance but out of an unfounded faith in the inherent equality of all people and/or a determination to make everyone equal regardless of the consequences. It seems their ideal society would be the one described in "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.
Let me introduce you to my way of being a Democrat. I'm not an egalitarian -- I'm a maximizer. I'm a hedonic utilitarian, in particular -- I think that maximizing the aggregate happiness of everyone, measured in terms of pleasure minus displeasure, is the goal of good social policy. (Hence the title of this post). We get off the equality bus long before the Harrison Bergeron station.
So you might be thinking: why won't Libertarian economic policies bring the pleasure? And why do Democrats seem to be pushing so hard for equality? As an answer to both questions, consider the diminishing marginal utility of money. If my currently wealthy father gets $1000 today, he won't buy anything with it that'll make him much happier. But give the same amount of money to a poorly fed Indian village boy (like the boy my father used to be), and you'll increase that boy's happiness tremendously. So if you're going to maximize pleasure, you'll want to massively redistribute wealth down the income scale. Some of the mechanisms of redistribution might be inefficient, but the benefits are so dramatic that substantial inefficiencies can be tolerated. (We'll always be on the lookout for the most efficient way to redistribute, though.) It's very unlikely that enough redistribution will happen if we leave it up to private charity, so the government has to tax rich people if the poor are going to get the boost they need. And we're not doing this to make everybody equal -- we're doing it to maximize the total happiness.
In our messy world, there are lots of other situations where a libertarian 'night watchman' government won't maximize. We live in a world with monopolies, prisoners' dilemmas, bad corporate governance, adverse selection in annuity pricing, and a host of other problems. If you want a pragmatic, consequentialist approach to maximizing total happiness in a messy world -- an approach that isn't bound by dogmas about the appropriate size of government -- let me invite you to join the Democratic Party.