Sunday, October 18, 2015

Income Inequality

From the Washington Post:
The (Democratic) party believes that economic inequality is an urgent problem, and that its urgency should be understood in terms of huge disparities of wealth. Neither proposition is (to use the term Jefferson used when he wrote equality into America’s catechism) a self-evident truth.

The fundamental producer of income inequality is freedom. Individuals have different aptitudes and attitudes. Not even universal free public education, even were it well done, could equalize the ability of individuals to add value to the economy. Besides, some people want to teach, others want to run hedge funds. In an open society, rewards are set not by political power but by impersonal market forces, the rewards of which will differ dramatically but usually predictably. Beyond freedom’s valuable fecundity in producing unequal social outcomes, four other facets of today’s America fuel inequality...

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doing well, if not good, by reducing the debate about equality to resentment of large fortunes. He should read Harry G. Frankfurt’s new book “On Inequality.” It is so short (89 pages) that even a peripatetic candidate can read it, and so lucid that he cannot miss its inconvenient point: “It is misguided to endorse economic egalitarianism as an authentic moral ideal.” 

Frankfurt, a Princeton professor of philosophy emeritus, argues that economic inequality is not inherently morally objectionable. “To the extent that it is truly undesirable, it is on account of its almost irresistible tendency to generate unacceptable inequalities of other kinds.” These can include access to elite education, political influence and other nontrivial matters. But Frankfurt’s alternative to economic egalitarianism is the “doctrine of sufficiency,” which is that the moral imperative should be that everyone have enough .

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