Category Archives: Equality

No Matter What Happens, There Will Be A 1%

Well, the Title is not totally true. If everyone had exactly the same thing, then all there would be is the 100%. But let’s face it. That ain’t ever gonna happen, so even if everyone was dirt poor, 1% of the dirt poor will be above 99% of the dirt poor. But, we can dream anyways, can’t we? Below, excerpted from this paper, is someone who imagines such a world, and its problems. Still, there are those who would rather not have any cool stuff at all for themselves than to be faced with the possibility that someone might end up with more than their fair share of cool stuff.

Imagine a society with perfect economic equality. …[N]o one worries about the gap between the rich and poor, and no one debates to what extent public policy should make income redistribution a priority. Because people earn the value of their product, everyone is fully incentivized to provide the efficient amount of effort. The government is still needed [and are funded] with a lump-sum tax. […]The society enjoys not only perfect equality but also perfect efficiency.

Then, one day, this egalitarian utopia is disturbed by an entrepreneur with an idea for a new product. Think of the entrepreneur as Steve Jobs as he develops the iPod, When the entrepreneurs product is introduced, everyone in society wants to buy it. They each part with, say, $100. The transaction is a voluntary exchange, so it must make both the buyer and the seller better off. But because there are many buyers and only one seller, the distribution
of economic well-being is now vastly unequal. The new product makes the entrepreneur much richer than everyone else.

The society now faces a new set of questions: How should the entrepreneurial disturbance in this formerly egalitarian outcome alter public policy? Should public policy remain the same, because the situation was initially acceptable and the entrepreneur improved it for everyone? Or should government policymakers deplore the resulting inequality and use their powers to tax and transfer to spread the gains more equally?

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Filed under Economics, Equality, Government, Social Justice

“Words Are Wise Men’s Counters… But They Are The Money Of Fools”

In the post before last I excerpted a passage from “The Road To Serfdom” concerning the redefining of “words”. Below is a short video that builds on that idea.  It also explains how the words “social justice” are “money of fools”.

H/T Right From Yaad.

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Also check out this series on social justice:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

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Filed under Economics, Equality, Harsh Reality, Morality, Politics, Social Justice, Words, Worldview

True Equality, Social Justice part 6

The previous post concerned equal outcomes, which is often confused with equal opportunity. Many times discernment is needed to distinguish between the two “equalities”.

At issue is the wealth disparity that naturally arises in a free society.  This disparity introduces a highly emotional component, with feelings of unfairness.  The fact is however that populations are made up of diverse individuals.  Some will try with varying success, some will try and fail, and some will just go surfing.

Another problem with the notion of “equal opportunity”, some complain, is that all are not born into equal circumstances. The actual circumstances enjoyed by a person, or perhaps overcome, are wwide-ranging and mostly  are out of a given person’s control.  Still,  in recent American history most of these circumstances, mixed with hard work, ethics, motivations and wisdom, (which are free to all) would have landed a person somewhere in what we call today, the middle class.  

But the goal of equal opportunity only seeks to provide equality to whatever circumstances a person brings to the table.  While it grasps that not all begin on equal footing, it also grasps the limitations of mortal man.  In 1961, the satirist Kurt Vonnegut illustrated this dilemma in a short story about a man named  Harrison Bergeron.  Bergeron, so the story goes, had an unfair advantage because he was highly intelligent.  This was unfair so he was forced to wear an earpiece that randomly emitted loud noises to interrupt his thought processes.  

The arts provide another poignant  illustration of outcomes vs. opportunity.  The rock group, Rush, produced a song1 called The Trees 2 in which the maples were upset with the oaks because the oaks hogged all the sunlight. In the end, equal outcome was finally enforced by “hatchet, ax, and saw”.

In the final analysis, this discussion on outcomes vs.opportunity raises an important question for those who judge equality by outcome:  If what one does doesn’t ultimately matter, what does it ultimately matter what one does?

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Note 1. “The Trees”

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The trouble with the maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade
There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘Oppression!’
And the oaks just shake their heads
So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw
Note 2

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Filed under Equality, Social Justice

You Will Always Be In Chains

Being in chains is a metaphor, of course.  Chains depict restraint of a physical sort, but the reality of economics depicts restraints of a different sort.  One person might be restrained from eating T-bones due to the lack of a few dollars, or a politician might be restrained from buying those last few votes because he couldn’t produce the millions required for handouts.  But regardless of circumstances, the slack eventually takes out of everyone’s chain.

But this is why economics is such a hot topic isn’t it?  No one likes restraint, especially when they see their neighbors living lives with much less restraint.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Perhaps that’s because it isn’t.  Worse, a different sort of chain, “human nature” will keep anyone from fixing it.  Oh, not that it won’t be tried over and again, but man’s selfish nature will always intervene in his vain  attempts at instituting equality.  This truth is simple to see, and clearly demonstrable with a cursory glance at history, but while man is clearly not capable of producing a “fair” society, apparently he is exceedingly apt at self-delusion.

Every person’s chains could be loosened if the efforts to loosen them were judged by results.  But unfortunately history is generally marked by the burden of unnecessarily tight chains because man’s tendency to judge efforts according to intentions rather than results.  Failure, therefore, is gain for the “fixers” because it results in shorter chains that the “fixers” are eager to address if only the enslaved would grant them more power.  The result?  More chains.

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Filed under Equality, fairness, Harsh Reality, Human Nature, Politics, Social Justice, Worldview

Don’t Tread On My Private Property

In our current day of “social justice”, fair has come to mean an equal distribution of resources.  But there is a barrier to this goal.  That barrier is known as private property.

For years, being a moron myself, this term, “private property”,  was confusing.  I was raised in a rural area with plenty of “private property” signs around.  But this is not what private property is; at least not solely.  There are all kinds of private property… like money for example.  The fundamental component of “private property” is ownership.  One can say “that’s mine” with the weight of law backing it up.

But the misguided ideas that drive “social justice” muddies this concept.  One of the tasks of capitalist governments is to protect private property, which is why there are laws against theft.  But what if the government is enlisted by the majority to participate in theft from the minority?  If this can happen, is anyone’s property really private, or is it more a privilege dependent on the whim of the majority?

While the tension between ownership and social justice involves many facets, here is one: The emotion based appeal of equality versus the right to acquire and accumulate private property to do with as one pleases.

Most however don’t see this tension because most don’t have what is arbitrarily deemed to be more than their fair share.  There is no reasoned defense capable of answering this emotional argument, but there is sound economical reasons to defend private property. And, there are sound reasons to deny the authority in society to participate in theft.  To not do this is a slippery slope because once the right to private property is destroyed for one, the door is opened for it to be destroyed for all.

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Filed under Economic Science, Economics, Equality, fairness, Government, Morality, Worldview

Can’t We All Just Have A Utopian Style Economy?

Some time back I told a group of ten year olds that I had hidden a bag of candy.  I passed out maps that I assured them would lead to the treasure, but I purposely withheld the beginning point.  They began walking around, turning this way and that, counting their steps, as they each dutifully followed the map .  Not one of them asked for that key piece of information that would have unlocked it.  This surprised me for some reason.  In the end no one found the candy. So I ate it myself… In front of them.

There is a lesson here in economics.  Where one begins in the study of economics will determine where he ends up.

When most hear the word “economy” they think of the availability of jobs, money and so on.  But the starting point of economics is man, namely, answering the question, how will he act, good or not so great, under given circumstances?  With this answer in hand it then attempts to answer another question, how do we enlist our fellow man to participate in our own benefit?

While capitalism begins with the more negative view that man is only interested in himself, and from selfish motives will work, improvise, innovate, trade, think, risk, explore and other things that make for a good economy, communism is based on an assumption that man is more altruistic. It assumes he will do these same things with the same zeal in return for his fair share of resources, however much some wealthy, innately-benevolent leader decides that is.

That this hasn’t ever worked is a testament to the faultiness of communism’s premise.  That it will ever be attempted  is a testament to the validity of capitalism’s premise regarding man’s condition… well, that and his resilience to the truth regarding that sad condition.

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Filed under Economic Science, Economics, Equality, fairness, Harsh Reality, Human Nature, Morality, Work, Worldview

America Has An Unfair Economy

Rule number one in economics:

All economies are unfair.

This rule, as with most economic rules, falls under the “reality is harsh” heading.  Much blood has flowed in attempts to break this rule, and it’s obvious that we’re not anywhere near done.  Yet, after all the blood letting, there stands all those unfair economies.  So what’s going on here?

The one problem I’ll discuss here is undefined terms. In this case, the term is “fair”.  Consider a kitchen table.  If someone looks at it and asks, “What’s that”, and another answers,” Well, it’s certainly not a chair”,  the question wasn’t answered satisfactorily.  Yet, still, the answer was true.  The fact remains that one could possibly go on for days saying what the table isn’t, all the while speaking true answers, yet never answering.

The truth is that a table is a table, and a chair is not a table.  This truth is not subject to opinion.  Fair, on the other hand, is very much subjective.  We have a president claiming that some are not paying their fair share in taxes.  But he is not pointing to some objective standard as to what anyone’s fair share is. He’s only saying what he thinks it’s not.

Others say that it’s not fair that that person over there has so much more than I do.  Again, this is an appeal  to what is not fair while giving no indication as to what is fair.  But even if “fair” is specified, those specifications can only be based on subjectivity.  While a table will always be a table, what is fair for one is not always fair for another.

This is not to say that there exists no objective standard for fair in which, like a table is a table, fair is fair.  It is to say that that standard is found outside of the self.  It is in the self that such “standards” are confused with self-interest.

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Filed under Economics, Equality, fairness, taxation, Worldview