Skip to comments.What's Wrong With Inequality?
Posted on 01/18/2014 4:32:04 AM PST by Kaslin
Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Jay W. Richards.
The debate over income inequality is a perennial one, but President Obama has made it the cause du jour with a renewed emphasis in his upcoming State of the Union speech. He has invoked Pope Francis in his renewed campaign to brand inequality as the defining challenge of our time. Even New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is getting in on the action.
These men are not lonely voices crying in the wilderness. A 2013 Pew Research Center poll reports almost half of Americans believe the wealth gap is a serious moral problem.
Poverty is unquestionably a serious concern, but even if poverty were eradicated there would remain an enormous income gap between the family living comfortably on $100,000 a year and people like Oprah Winfrey, Bono and Bill Gates. So what exactly is the problem with income inequality? Some think there is a theological problem. Jim Wallis has claimedwhen calling for an increase in the minimum wageGod hates inequality.
The Judeo-Christian tradition teaches that everyone is created in the image of God, and so all people, whatever their social status, should be treated with dignity and as equals before the law. Theres a lot about greed in the Bible, but not a single passage of Scripture or traditional Judeo-Christian teaching suggests that income inequality, in itself, is a moral evil.
In the Old Testament, Job and Abraham were wealthy and held up as righteous. In the New Testament, Jesus tells His Apostles they will sit on twelve thrones in the kingdom of God. So far as we know, nobody else will get those thrones. Then, too, in the early church, wealthy members gave out of their wealth to help those in need, but the redistribution that occurred was not a forced leveling but a voluntary generosity. And income differences persisted since the early church met in the large homes of their wealthier members.
So why are so many Americans, including religious Americans, concerned about income inequality?
One reason is an economic misconception. Many assume that the economy is a zero-sum game, in which Peters wealth can only come from Pauls poverty, thus they tend to view a wealth gap as evidence of theft.
But thats not how a market economy works. We all know this when it comes to, say, smartphones and groceries. Steve Jobs didnt become rich by stealing i-Pads from homeless people. He got rich by creating value for others, including millions of people less wealthy than he was. Ditto for your local grocer. The farmers grew the food, but the grocer also generates value by orchestrating a service that allows you to acquire a wide variety of food items safely and conveniently.
Wealth, in other words, can be created rather than merely transferred from one account to the other. Do we really want a society in which those who can create the most wealth are punished for doing so?
Though each of us is equal in the eyes of God, and should be equal before the law, we have diverse skills, passions and physical attributes. Where this is obvious, and where the contribution of those talents is easily grasped, people are unlikely to complain. Few publicly begrudge the incomes of professional athletes, actors and high tech entrepreneurs. The greedy one percenters we hear about are invariably Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs, those doing jobs whose value is difficult to grasp because the contribution is abstract.
There are nations that acted on this animus against finance, labeling the business class as leeches and sending them out into the fields either to be killed or do subsistence farming. Those economies imploded, so apparently high-level business managers actually do perform something useful and hard to replicate.
It would be easy to end there, but theres another wrinkle that when ironed out reveals a legitimate complaint against Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs. Some seem to have acquired their wealth through political connections rather than value creation. Thats cronyism, not capitalism. And many Americans rightly view cronyism as a moral outrage, since it substitutes the voluntary exchanges of a market for the coercive power of the state.
Rather than fixating on income inequality, then, we should focus on the real problems: poverty, cronyism and the human capacity wasted due to high unemployment. The significant gap is not between the homeless and the Tom Bradys of the World, or between the McDonalds employees and all the Fortune 500 CEOs. The real divide is between the cronies in Washington and everyone else, including the poor and unemployed. Vilifying and punishing genuine wealth creation will remedy none of these problems.
Exactly. It's not a "pie" that's gone when everyone takes their piece. The brilliance of a free market economy is that private individuals create uncapped wealth.
The movie “Happy” (Official Trailer)
The problem is that these days too many of the bankers and CEOs are winners at the crony capitalism game, gamblers whose risks are underwritten by the taxes of the poor working suckers in the middle and for all their talk, Obama and his associates are right in the middle in subsidizing these overpaid leeches.
They don’t want income equality. Equality means equal. The same. That means that I should get the same amount as deblasio and pelosi. Benefits too. Also, corzine bloomberg winfrey dodd and soros have to give up their fortunes and put the money in my bank account. Gotta be equal.
All the yakking by leftists about “inequality” simply means they haven’t figured out enough ways to steal money from the producers and give to their leech constituency. Certainly, the last thing all limousine libs want is to be on the same economic rung as the “poor and oppressed” the people they say they love but most likely can’t stand being around. So many libs face that contradiction...they don’t like “inequality”, but they sure hate being poor. I guess it’s not much fun being schizophrenic.
Absolutly nothing, I’ve worked damn hard to be better off than most!
Communism is all about ending inequality. Since inequality is the natural state of man, government must be developed to force the equalization.
Since it is not possible to raise the quality level of the masses, it is necessary to decrease the quality of the exceptional. A looter such as Barack Obama chafes at being an unequal and institutes tyranny to pretend he has raised his own level upward
Our problem is not income inequality. It is much, much worse. We have seen the left destroy our churches, destroy kids chances by throwing God out of the schools and the public and we should not wonder why things are so bad. We have many more high school drop outs, and; high school has been dumbed down. We have more and more people dependent on the government for a section 8 roof over their head, health insurance, EBT cards, etc. Obama and the left tells these folks they are victims. The truth is they quit on life. People refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own actions. Until these handouts stop-more and more will strive towards qualifying for the easy way out of life. Obama wants more and more dependent on GOV. That keeps Dems in power.
Democrat-liberal-socialist want equality of results without equality of effort.
Early in our American experience, treatises were written identifying liberty as varying inversely with equality.
Too many people associate inequality with prejudice or unjust circumstances.
It’s sloppy thinking by those who seek to steal the rewards of others with criminal intent, but they linger in their thinking to the point of believing their criminality is just, to avoid changing their thinking.
Liberty doesn’t promote equality of effort.
A guy who builds a better mousetrap deserves a reward for the benefit he gives others. Economically, the free market laws of supply and demand provide that incentive.
Competition is a wonderful mechanism for naturally controlling greed.
Of course not. Anyone believing that these give up millions of dollars better think again
I would prefer that they read/focus on Romans chapter 1 vs.18-32 where Paul spoke to the Romans. It seems fitting as Obama and pals have ruined our military with LGBT fornicators, and; we have judges who make decisions that not a single founding father of this nation would agree that he intended such in the constitution.
God hates inequality? No kidding? The same God who authored this commandment: “You shall not envy?” That tells me God knew there would always be inequality of income and result. So did Jesus, when he said we would always have the poor with us. Their remedy for inequality and envy is simply not to allow the emotion to control one’s thinking.
It’s time Christians recognized Jim Wallis as a false teacher, and label him as such whenever his name comes up.
There are two circumstances to inequality, one of which is fair, and the other of which is unfair.
Unfair inequality results in the unequal application of the law, basically one law for the rich, and another for the everyone else. It also means that the wealthy, and their organizations, have unequal access to government, as well as unfair support from government.
Finally, it means that the wealthy use government to both sustain and increase their wealth *at the expense* of everyone else. We often call this “cronyism”.
Socialists pretend that wealth itself is to blame for this unfairness, but it is not. The vast majority of the wealthy are content with what they earn being theirs, and do not seek to either “keep others down”, or to use their power in government to subsidize the increase of their wealth. In fact, they are more than happy that others are also prosperous.
What *is* to blame for unfair inequality is the attitude of some of the wealthy, that because of their wealth, they are an hereditary elite, deserve the reins of power, and they are willing to socially experiment with the lives of others, as well as to try and forcibly “keep them down”.
In the extreme, such people do not enjoy the richness of their lives, unless they live on an island of prosperity surrounded by a sea of misery and poverty. Their caviar is less fresh, and their Champagne less bubbly, if there are people they think of as inferior enjoying their lives as well.
Such people are “pigs”, amoral creatures, and downright vicious ones. They are the repulsive character of true inequality, and deserve no sympathy for their neuroses, vices, and oppressive attitude towards others.
Almost everything the government does are dumb things or really dumb things. Obama is stuck in the second area.
Equality of opportunity is wonderful. Equality of results is unachievable.
Democrats hope the inequality song reaches to the top of the chart for the next two election hey it’s a great detour from the truth and fact issues.