The seminar I talked about in the last post was held by the philosophy, politics, and economics group, so naturally a lot of the questions were political economy related. Someone asked Mulligan why he thought these safety net policies were passed in the first place, given how negative they are (negative according to Mulligan of course, not me).
His response deserves a post all its own. I was floored (1.) that he gave this response and (2.) that no one challenged him on it.
He said that we have these increasingly generous safety net policies because the "elites" on the "right tail of the income distribution" (his words) feel good about themselves when they give a generous safety net to the poor. He said the amount of money involved is small enough that it doesn't matter to them and they increase the generosity and they feel better about themselves for doing it.
If I had not come in late I might have spoken up when he said that, but I felt like enough of an interloper already between coming in late, it not being in my own department, and the general hostility towards Keynesianism. Plus I'm sure I would have addressed it in an entirely inappropriate way, like "are you shitting me?" or "is it April Fool's Day already?".
That was by far and away the most absurd thing I heard during the whole seminar: low income families are screwed by the safety net because rich people are just too generous and want to use their power to redistribute money to low income families.
I know I'm elaborating on my interpretation of it in the last two paragraphs, but if anyone that was there (Peter Boettke, Bryan Caplan, Pete Leeson, Chris Coyne, Virgil Storr, Harrison Searles, probably others) wants to challenge my account of what he said in the third paragraph, feel free to. I was jotting down notes during the seminar so I think it's pretty faithful.