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On income inequality

Unlike all the good progressives out there, I don’t give a rat’s ass about income inequality.  So the gap between our richest and poorest citizens is getting wider.  Your point?  I’ve come to believe that the fuss over income inequality is stirred up by childish envy and politicians.  There’s always Johnny Entitled out there who believes they are entitled to all the goodies those bad rich people have without having to do what’s necessary to earn all the goodies and there’s always a Bobby Politics out there eager to tell Johnny that he’s right and he deserves all the goodies and that as a concerned public servant, Bobby will get Johnny some of the goodies if Johnny will vote for him.

And then Bobby Politics goes to work spinning a yarn about the millions of citizens living in poverty and the Bankers and Wall Street types who cheated other people out of their hard-earned money and that the decent thing to do would be to take some of the ill-gotten gains from all the rich people and ease the suffering of the millions of people without a decent place to live who can’t put food on the table for their children who go to bed hungry every night.  We have to tax the bad rich people.  Think of the Children.

Of course, there are actually a handful of truly destitute people (relative to the population) out there in this country and there are enough Bernie Madoff’s to point to as evidence that all rich people are bad.  Like all good lies, there’s an element of truth.  However, as pointed out in this article,

For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. For example, the Poverty Pulse poll taken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development asked the general public: “How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?” The overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to meet basic needs.  That perception is bolstered by news stories about poverty that routinely feature homelessness and hunger.

Reality is a bit different.

In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.  In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker. The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European.

One could almost be convinced that the Johnny Entitlements and Bobby Politics of this country deliberately defined “poverty” in such a way as to make the “problem” look as big as possible to justify getting the Government to steal money redistribute resources from the bad rich people (who are all evil, soulless, cheating bastards) so the children don’t have to go to bed hungry (and Johnny Entitlement can get the goodies he wants without working for them and Bobby Politics can go right on spending other people’s money for another term in office).

Sometime I’ll talk about what I think we should do about the handful of rich people who cheated to get where they are, what we should do about the Johnny Entitlements of this country, and more importantly, what we should do about the Bobby Politics who live to spend other people’s money redistribute resources.  But for now, take it as a given that in a country where the typical “poor” person lives better than most of the rest of the world, I am confident that gap between the income of the richest and poorest isn’t our biggest problem.

The idea that some of us are entitled to some of what others of us have IS, however, a problem.  I like Don Boudreaux’s take on the idea over at Cafe Hayek (read the whole thing for the set-up):

Shouldn’t government ‘redistribute’ parts of Mr. Krugman’s New York Times column to me and other pundits who (according to the theory) can’t help but seethe with soul-shriveling envy at Mr. Krugman’s good fortune – good fortune that (also according to the theory) has less to do with Mr. Krugman’s merits as a columnist and more to do either with chance or with his pernicious and unfair influence with the Powers-that-Be?

Surely every ‘Progressive’ believes that those of us who now possess far less access than does Mr. Krugman to the opinion pages of the Times deserve to enjoy more of the access that he currently “controls.”  And no ‘Progressive’ would let mere bourgeois obsessions with property rights and freedom block the state from forcibly redistributing such private property in the name of “social justice.”

I also like this quote, found at The Smallest Minority;

What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice. — Thomas Sowell, Random Thoughts

Actually, I guess my point is pretty simple.  Anyone whose life is ruined by their obsession with what someone else has is entitled to my pity.  Nothing else.




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