Long Live Economic Inequality!

Skyscrapers

Inequality, we have to keep in mind, is not the same thing as poverty. When people like Timothy Noah complain that “income distribution in the United States is now more unequal than in Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guyana, and Venezuela,” they act as if it’s irrelevant that almost all Americans are rich compared to the citizens of these countries. Economic inequality is perfectly compatible with widespread affluence, and rising inequality is perfectly compatible with a society in which the vast majority of citizens are getting richer. If the incomes of the poorest Americans doubled while the incomes of the richest Americans tripled, that would dramatically increase inequality even though every single person would be better off. Inequality refers not to deprivation but difference, and there is nothing suspicious or objectionable about differences per se. [from the newly released, “Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality” by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook]

Absolutely right.

Inequality under the law is injustice. If I get the death penalty for a purse snatching, and you merely get a jail sentence, then an injustice has occurred. If you get arrested because you’re black (or white), and for no other reason, it’s an injustice. If I make more money than you, no injustice has occurred. It’s as simple as that.

People who talk of “social justice” reveal the weakness of their own argument by qualifying the term “justice” with “social.” They know full well when they talk of “social justice” they’re not really talking about justice; that’s why they have to qualify it.

There’s a reason why life is so much better in the United States than in Venezuela, Cuba, or North Korea. In these places, economic equality has been upheld, for the most part. Everyone is equally poor, except for the Communist or socialist masters, of course. In the United States, economic inequality has been upheld, for the most part. The superiority of economic inequality over economic equality is breathtaking and overwhelming. Nobody wants to admit it; but everyone wants to live in the United States.

Laws against economic inequality are like having laws against people being different in ability. The fact that some do better than others is a reminder that some are more capable, more hard working, or make different choices from others. For some reason, many people find this fact infuriating and disturbing. To pass a law requiring everyone to have the same amount of money is like passing a law forcing us to pretend that everyone is the same, when clearly they are not, and never will be.

I find it hilarious beyond reason that the same people who prattle on and lecture about “diversity” in society care little or nothing for diversity when it comes to intelligence, capability, or money-making capacity. Somehow, we’re supposed to endorse diversity for diversity’s sake when it comes to things like gender or skin color, but when it comes to things which people DO in fact choose, such as effort, risk-taking or achievement, we’re supposed to act and treat everybody as if they’re exactly the same.

In a growing economy, the rich do get richer; but so does everybody else. The middle class grows, the poor get richer, and even those who depend on charity are better off than they would be in a Communist or pure socialist society where nobody had anything. Moochers do better under capitalism, because there’s more to mooch; those suffering through no fault of their own do better under capitalism as well, because the giving are more generous when they actually have something to give, and when the gifts come directly rather than through the onerous red-tape, and dehumanizing facelessness, of a social welfare bureaucracy.

It’s wrong to apologize for economic inequality. You should actually embrace it, if you want the economy to always grow, prosper and also if you want justice. It’s justice to leave people alone, so long as they do not impose harm on others, and to leave them to do what they wish with the fruits of the efforts they honestly earned. It’s profound injustice to treat everyone the same and, in the process, to legislate poverty and stagnation, as socialist and Communist societies always do. Just ask Venezuela, North Korea or Cuba.

And if you think it’s OK to have a “little” bit of socialism (we already have more than a little) rather than full socialism, you’re just as guilty of injustice as if you supported the whole thing. You’re not off the hook, because when you say that government should outlaw some economic inequality in practice, you’ve already endorsed all-out Communism or socialism, in principle.

Look at the mess that’s the 2016 election. So-called advocates of the free market are losing the debate in America; not because they’re wrong, but because they allowed the debate to shift from economic productivity and growth to economic equality mandated by the government. Advocates of the free market evade the issue of morality, refusing to take a side; advocates of socialism embrace morality and unequivocally take a side. They don’t win because they’re right, but because they’re the only ones who will discuss the morality of capitalism vs. socialism.

In a real debate over morality, it would go like this. Side 1: “Man is his brother’s keeper. The government will enforce this idea.” Side 2: “Man is not his brother’s keeper. Each individual life is an end in itself. Every person is sovereign over his or her life. The government may never interfere, other than to punish those who initiate force or who commit fraud.”

We hear Side # 1 every single day, not only from all Democrats but from most Republicans. We never hear Side # 2 expressed, and that’s why we’re losing.

The case for free markets and private property over socialism is easy to win—but only if we stop apologizing and feeling guilty for economic freedom.

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