June 3, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

Inequality of Argument

So, I was sent an article to look over to show that income inequality is a bad thing. It made me chuckle because it appealed to the moral wisdom of Peter Singer. I’m sure the man that believes we are morally justified in killing people because they have very low IQ’s must have some wisdom about organizing society. Let’s see what the article says:

One obvious reason for redistributing resources from the rich to the poor is simply that this is a way of making the poor better off. In his TED Talk on “effective altruism,” Peter Singer advances powerful reasons of this kind for voluntary redistribution: Many people in the world are poor, and the improvement in their lives that richer people can bring about by giving money is enormous by comparison with the small sacrifice that this would involve.


I’m not sure what is meant by “voluntary redistribution”. Isn’t that already existing when we think of charities? If that is simply what the article means, then we already have that system in a capitalist society. We would need to see some further point about So, that hardly means we need the government to redistribute the wealth. The article will later go on to argue for why the redistribution should be used by force.

These reasons for redistribution are strongest when the poor are very badly off, as in the cases Singer describes. But there will always be some reason of this kind as long as redistributing assets increases the well-being of the poor more than it decreases that of the rich. These reasons for eliminating inequality are also based on an idea of equality, namely that, as Singer puts it, “every life is equally important.” This can be seen as a combination of two ideas: the general principle of universal moral equality, that everyone matters morally in the same way, and the idea that, because all people “matter morally,” there’s a good reason to bring about increases in their well-being if we can.

Well, people do have moral worth and intrinsic value. Of course, for Peter Singer that is only if you are smart enough to matter. The concept that everyone has moral worth doesn’t mean we should take from the rich and give to the poor. The article links to a Stanford entry:


This discusses the various views of equality and discusses them. So, the proponent of the article needs to explain why we should accept their view of equality over that of some other view of equality. Capitalists have presented their own views of equality:

1. Economic inequality can give wealthier people an unacceptable degree of control over the lives of others.

If wealth is very unevenly distributed in a society, wealthy people often end up in control of many aspects of the lives of poorer citizens: over where and how they can work, what they can buy, and in general what their lives will be like. As an example, ownership of a public media outlet, such as a newspaper or a television channel, can give control over how others in the society view themselves and their lives, and how they understand their society.

The author states that if income inequality exists, then wealthy people can have unacceptable influences upon us. Of course, even if this was an issue it is hardly solved by redistribution. It only shifts that locus of control to the government. The government get to decide where and how you can work, what you can buy, and in general what your life will be like. Unlike corporations that require voluntary transactions in order to thrive the government has force. That is another key difference ignored by the author. That the “control” a corporation has over you is not really anything beyond your own control. If I don’t like McDonald’s, then I can go to checkers. If I don’t want to work for some business, then I can work somewhere else. The news media is an example of a bad industry. But everyone has the ability to find which source they find most reliable. Whether it be MSNBC, CNN, FOX, the Daily Wire, etc. So, a free-market solution is already available. It is also ironic that the people most eager for wealth redistribution are also the same people manipulating the media:

2. Economic inequality can undermine the fairness of political institutions.

If those who hold political offices must depend on large contributions for their campaigns, they will be more responsive to the interests and demands of wealthy contributors, and those who are not rich will not be fairly represented.

The point is that a businessman can pay 1 Trillion dollars to a campaign. It doesn’t mean that that candidate will win. A republic allows poorer citizens to have more a say as to their representatives. That’s why people pay money for political campaigns. It also is apparent that high amounts of taxation can’t fix a corrupt government. If they can be corrupted by money from private interest groups, then why can’t they be tempted by money collected by taxes? It would be smarter to lessen the role government plays in our lives so people have less incentive in bribing politicians. The ones that benefit from a larger government is precisely those that we think are punished by a larger government. The conservative perspective has always seen this as an attempt to try control speech in Washington:

3. Economic inequality undermines the fairness of the economic system itself.

Economic inequality makes it difficult, if not impossible, to create equality of opportunity. Income inequality means that some children will enter the workforce much better prepared than others. And people with few assets find it harder to access the first small steps to larger opportunities, such as a loan to start a business or pay for an advanced degree.

Equality of opportunity is simply incoherent. We are affected often by means outside our control, but I can think of another alternative to solve these issues than simply appealing to the government. We already mentioned private charity and we could also mention scholarships for those seeking further education. That’s better than a student taking a loan that will never be paid off because of inflated school prices because we refuse to allow a free-market solution for education.

None of these objections is an expression of mere envy. They are objections to inequality based on the effects of some being much better off than others. In principle, these effects could avoided, without reducing economic inequality, through such means as the public financing of political campaigns and making high-quality public education available to all children (however difficult this would be in practice).

Of course, this would fall on the shoulders of all Americans as another tax that destroys industry and ignores the fact that many Americans will never go to college and will still be forced to pay for those that do.

A fourth kind of objection to inequality is more direct. In Paul Krugman’s review of Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, he mentions these stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Real wages for most U.S. workers have increased little if at all since the early 1970s, but wages for the top 1 percent of earners have risen 165 percent, and wages for the top 0.1 percent have risen 362 percent.” (Krugman calls those “supersalaries.”) Again, the idea that this is objectionable is not mere envy. It rests, I believe, on this idea, my fourth point:

This has been discussed by economist like Thomas Sowell:

Ben Shapiro talks about it:

4. Workers, as participants in a scheme of cooperation that produces national income, have a claim to a fair share of what they have helped to produce.

What constitutes a fair share is of course controversial. One answer is provided by John Rawls’ Difference Principle, according to which inequalities in wealth and income are permissible if and only if these inequalities could not be reduced without worsening the position of those who are worst-off. You don’t have to accept this exact principle, though, in order to believe that if an economy is producing an increasing level of goods and services, then all those who participate in producing these benefits — workers as well as others — should share in the result.

They share in the benefits by receiving a wage that they agreed to be paid. People are not forced to work, they choose to work because they love goods and services.

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