Economic Growth

Egypt is Burning. But America Has Rampant Inequality!

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Political turmoil outside American borders offers pundits yet another chance to bring up their favorite failure of these United States: We have a higher level of inequality than whatever poor nation is currently going up in flames. This week, the U.S. is apparently worse off than Egypt.

EVERYONE gets to wait 3 hours for gruel

Public intellectuals who beat the wealth disparity drum have an argument that goes something like this: Inequality is bad; there is correlation between bad things and inequality; ergo, the U.S.A. is trucking down the Pan-American Highway to banana republicdom if Congress doesn't repeal those pesky Bush tax cuts and go back to '60s cartel economics.

The University of Chicago's Gary Becker explains why this line of reasoning doesn't hold up:

Many people, especially academics and other intellectuals, find the phrase "good inequality" jarring because they can hardly think of any aspect of inequality as being "good." Yet a little thought makes clear that some types of economic inequality have great social value. For example, it would be hard to motivate the vast majority of individuals to exert much effort, including creative effort, if everyone had the same earnings, status, prestige, and other types of rewards. 

One really effective way to wind up with less inequality? Have less money. See this passage from Catherine Rampell's New York Times review of Branko Milanovic's The Haves and the Have Nots:

At a very basic, agrarian level of development, Milanovic explains, people's incomes are relatively equal; everyone is living at or close to subsistence level. But as more advanced technologies become available and enable workers to differentiate their skills, a gulf between rich and poor becomes possible. (HT: Mark Perry)

graph Rampell pulls from Milanovic's book shows that America's poorest 5 percent is richer, as a group, than about two-thirds of the world, and roughly equivalent with India's wealthiest 5 percent. 

Egalitarians all too often confuse correlation with causation. A recent paper, "Cascading Expenditures," posits a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses theory of inequality growth and credit bubbles that contains some truth nuggets. But last year's The Spirit Level was a book full of dodgy conclusions; for example, the Japanese live longer due to their flatter incomes, not flatter bellies. Upticks in bad things like bankruptcies, divorces, and commute times are not the fault of America's Gini coefficient.

Watch Ferraris For All author Daniel Ben-Ami discuss "who the hell's against economic progress" in an interview with Reason.tv

More from Reason on economic growth and its discontents here

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  1. And of course, even in a perfectly equal socioeconomic system, some comrades are more equal than others.

    1. “that America’s poorest 5 percent is richer, as a group, than about two-thirds of the world, and roughly equivalent with India’s wealthiest 5 percent.”
      _
      total BS. welfare queens dont live like india’s upper class.

      1. Possible – 5% of India is ~ 58M folks, 5% of the US is ~ 15M folks. Don’t have handy numbers for “India’s upper class” but I’ll posit it’s far less than 58M.

        Now, claiming the poorest 5% of Americans are about as well-off as the top 1.25% of Indians (~15M) – yah, that’s surely not so.

  2. For example, it would be hard to motivate the vast majority of individuals to exert much effort, including creative effort, if everyone had the same earnings, status, prestige, and other types of rewards.

    That’s what the jackboots and gulags are for. Pour encourager les autres.

  3. Josh, the photo on top is backwards.

    1. I’ll bet that dog is dead.

      1. And it’ll be in the stew pot in minutes.

        1. I’m on it!

  4. Egalitarians all too often confuse correlation with causation.

    There’s a difference?

  5. Is anyone familiar with the methodology of these studies that investigate wealth or income disparity?

    Wealthier people tend to have more wealth in the form of more assets where valuation tends to be more abstract: stocks, options, etc. How do these studies assign value to those assets?

    1. Stock valuation is abstract? They publish its current price every day.

      1. That’s the price you can buy that stock in relatively small quantities, compared to the total amount of stock issued by the corporation.

        But if we’re talking about an extremely rich person whose wealth consists of a huge share of the stock in some corporation that they work for or founded, there’s no reason to think they could sell all the stock they hold at that same price.

        We value the market capitalization of a corporation at current stock price x number of shares because it’s a convenient measure, but it shouldn’t be taken too literally. The same with taking too literally that the value of someone’s huge stock holding in corporation X is simply current price x number of shares held.

        1. Usually a large block is actually worth more than small quantities because it confers control. It’s one of the reasons you see companies pay more than the current value when they acquire another company.

          Stock in a closely held corporation is much harder to value, at least for someone that doesn’t have access to its books.

          1. Wasn’t saying that a large block necessarily implies lower valuation. Saying that valuation of large blocks of stock is not just linearly related to valuation of small blocks.

            What I’m curious about is when people do these studies, and they are putting, say, Sergei Brin’s name on a list of mega-rich people, are they just multiplying the number of shares of Google stock he owns by the current market price the day they did the study? What are their methodologies?

  6. Josh, the photo on top is backwards.

    In subtlest joke ever, gruel waits for you.

    1. You’re leaning genius, today, ?.

      1. Is the dog backwards?

  7. Yeah, isn’t it just hilarious that all this ‘everybody has to be EQUAL, all the time!’ crypto Marxist crap promises the moon and stars, but really means that things MUST suck for everyone in practice?

    Oh, stop, my side, I’m bustin a freakin gut here.

  8. The “inequality is bad” crowd are some of the biggest hypocrites on the planet, yet for some reason, no one blasts them for it. Just another example of how if you say the right things, your actions are irrelevant. It is truly the greatest lesson you could take to heart if you want to be beloved by a certain class of people. And the people who have mastered this must be so contemptuous of the schmucks who eat up the right words and never demand even one iota of action to back it up.

    1. Hey, wait. I’m in the ‘inequality is bad’ crowd. I’m just against involuntary redistribution.

      1. Why is inequality bad? Should we all be the exact same level of intelligence? The exact same strength? The exact same skill set?

        What a horrible world that would be.

        1. Fair enough. I’m of the “gross inequality is bad” crowd.

          1. What is “gross inequality”? Is that when someone is beautiful and another person is ugly? When someone is amazing at sports and another is a klutz?

            These vague terms mean nothing.

            1. So what? Of course, it’s a vague judgement, and I will act accordingly. If I ever become rich to the point where I feel like I’m contributing to gross inequality, I’ll slough off some of my money to charitable causes. The degree of egregiousness is my judgement call to make.

              1. So as I said, it’s really meaningless; just some arbitrary decision by you.

                1. so the world would be a better place if one person had all the money? That’s a pareto equilibrium by the way. Somewhere between that horribleness and the horribleness of exact equality lies good society.

                  forgive me for being so unselfish as to want a better society for everyone, and act accordingly.

                  1. pareto optimum, excuse me.

                  2. Except you’re not. You’re spouting nice platitudes that are completely subjective to your whim. You feel all warm and cozy because you said that inequality is bad, but you said yourself that any decision of yours to rectify any perceived inequality is completely yours to make. So you could get a billion dollars and decide that you need it and that no inequality needs to rectified.

                    Why do you think you’re “unselfish” merely because you said something about inequality on a website? You’ve left an escape clause a mile wide in which to define your own unselfishness or lack thereof.

                    Seems kinda convenient.

                    1. let me put it this way. Why do you make the pronouncement that a ‘perfectly equal’ society will be horrible. Let me spare you a response, because I will then ask you, why do you believe that? See, your judgement that how I feel is equally arbitrary and meaningless, because you cannot say ‘it’s objectively reasonable all the way down’. At some point the things that you believe in are equally rooted in arbitrary belief.

                    2. “The year was 2081 and everybody was finally equal.”

                      A society that protects everyone’s rights equally is good.

                      A society that IS perfectly equal is bad, because it is impossible for human beings to be equal unless you force everyone to exist at the lowest common denominator.

                      Never mind ignoring a basic human’s motivations.

                    3. OK. So you want to play this game?

                      “you force everyone to exist at the lowest common denominator.”

                      Why is that bad?

                    4. Why is that bad?

                      Retreating into this level of ambiguous sophistry is weak, dude. Really weak.

                    5. Retreating into this level of ambiguous sophistry is weak, dude. Really weak.

                      Said by the guy who conflated arbitrariness with meaninglessness.

                    6. Once you are sufficiently arbitrary, your words become meaningless, because you have given yourself the room to take any position you want at any time. So your words can–in fact, should–be disregarded at that point, as they just cannot be utilized for anything.

                    7. If it’s completely arbitrary, then as I said in the first place, terms like “gross inequality” mean absolutely nothing. If it means nothing, then why do you say it? You say it because you like the way it makes you seem to other people. You care, and you want them to know, because you said you don’t like “gross inequality”.

                      I’m not trying to say you’re a dick or anything, I’d just like people to admit when they’re just blowing hot air, especially when they admit it means nothing and is totally arbitrary.

                      If I said I hated “extreme sadness”, does that mean anything? Fuck no. But man, wouldn’t it make me sound like I care?

                    8. Terms like “liberty” mean absolutely nothing. If it means nothing, then why do you say it? You say it because you like the way it makes you seem to other people. You care, and you want them to know, because you said you don’t like it when people don’t have “liberty”.

                    9. I think you’re also missing my point that arbitrary is most definitely not the same thing as meaningless.

                    10. This is also weak. Liberty has a pretty clearly defined meaning; that of the ability to make individual choices free of coercion. “Inequality” does not; it can mean many, many things, not all of which are bad. Which merely reinforces my point that the way you used it is meaningless, as you didn’t even bother to specify what types of inequality you might be referring to.

                    11. Define ‘choices’. Define ‘coercion’.

                      Just because I didn’t bother to specify which types of inequality (because I thought by the thread it was self-evident, clearly my mistake) doesn’t mean that I don’t have a clear conception in my mind of what sorts of inequality I personally find distasteful. It may be meaningless in our ‘conversation’, but this is a stupid blog comment feed. In the real world, actions matter. And I don’t think that my actions are meaningless.

                    12. I don’t think actions are meaningless either. I think statements like “I don’t like gross inequality” are meaningless. They can be tossed out by someone who backs them up with no action at all, or by someone who does, and if you do back yours up with action, you do yourself a disservice by using something so vague that a total poser could use it. In fact, it makes you seem like a poser, because these vague sentiments are exactly the type of things they say to seem “caring” or whatever they’re going for at the moment.

                    13. and what I’m saying is it’s because of people like you that there is such an antipathy to libertarianism.

                    14. You have thin skin, dude. That’s not my problem.

                    15. You can believe that all you want. I don’t honestly give that much of a shit about what you think of me. What I do care about is not being misunderstood, so maybe doing this while hopped up on caffeine isn’t such a great idea. I also care about having what I consider to be less-wrong ideas propagated.

                    16. What I do care about is not being misunderstood

                      Then maybe you should write more clearly.

                      You could have thrown a few adjectives (other than gross) onto inequality, for example, to make the statement actually have meaning.

                    17. robc: I blame the coffee.

                      I think it’s a pretty bad thing that there are people who are homeless, for example. I think that people should step in to help when you see someone suffering on the street. This is just plain human decency. And, if you want, engage the Theory of Moral Sentiment side of the Adam Smith. It does make you feel better to help those less fortunate. You’re probably doing society a favor, too.

                      None of this of course, justifies government intervention in these matters.

                    18. Unfortunately, most homelessness is a result of bad personal choices. The last down and out person I gave money to said he hadn’t eaten that day and wanted a sandwich. I gave him a couple of bucks and a few minutes later saw him come out of the liquer store with a bottle of cheap wine.

                    19. I take that back. It’s because of attitudes like those that you just displayed. I don’t know you personally, you might actually generally be really awesome for libertarianism.

                    20. boy do I hate this thread depth limit.

                    21. Rush said it better:

                      “And the trees were all kept equal…
                      By hatchet.
                      Axe.
                      And Saw….”

                    22. “You feel all warm and cozy because you said that inequality is bad, but you said yourself that any decision of yours to rectify any perceived inequality is completely yours to make.”

                      You see, that would be a correct thing to say, except that I do regularly perform acts of charity. So, sure, it makes me feel good, but I also back up my words with action.

                    23. arg. I swear this free coffee that work provides me has severe unintended consequences, must be creating an unsustainable ‘mental acuity bubble’ that crashes around 5pm. Bastards. Please forgive the awful, discombobulated sentences and the regular misspelling of ‘judgment’.

                    24. Please forgive everything I said above. It’s the stupid talking

                    25. Relax, dude, it’s just a discussion. And go easy on the caffeine. I just recently went cold turkey on energy drinks and I feel a lot better for it.

                    26. I don’t make science without caffeine. If I don’t make science, I get fired.

                    27. Hey, yonemoto, I gotta ask after reading the thread here. What’s the best historical example of the most ‘equal’ society in your judgement? It’s an interesting question.

                      Personally, when I dwell on it, the most truly equal societies are the least civil, the least sophisticated. Everyone’s poor. Yay. Never saw a rich Kalahari Bushmen, and they can keep it. I like being poor in this unequal society myself.

                      Now, I know that’s a Debbie Downer, but to paraphrase that Supreme Court asshole way back when (Brandeis, I think it was?) “Inequality is the price of civilization.”

                      I think that’s what the point of ‘lowest common denominator’ was back in the thread. But seriously, what is good, or the least unequal, example?

                    28. “Hey, yonemoto, I gotta ask after reading the thread here. What’s the best historical example of the most ‘equal’ society in your judgement? It’s an interesting question.”

                      Isn’t there a correlation-causation problem here? I’m pretty partial to the 1950-1970 USA, of course when nixon shut the gold window things started going to hell in a handbasket.

                    29. I happen to believe that income disparity is caused by inflation. There’s some compelling reasons to believe that, mostly, that inflation hurts the poor harder than the rich. Ultimately, the way to sustainably eliminate income disparity is to take away the government’s power to print money. Even private charity and government redistribution cannot make up for the compounding effects of inflation.

                    30. I just recently went cold turkey on energy drinks and I feel a lot better for it.

                      Me too. That first day or two was rough but I actually get a little sleep at night now. It’s easier to wake up too.

                    31. It’s not just the caffeine; I swear the overload of B vitamins was affecting me as well.

                    32. Picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

                      I kid! I kid!

                    33. i want equivalence with penis size – provided that i am being equalized with someone who has a much larger penis.
                      I will not be equalized with someone who has a smaller penis – people with smaller penises than me should be killed, so as not to diminish the average equal penis size.
                      Oh, and the same thing for income.

                    34. I refuse to reduce the size of my penis to average. Too many women would suffer withdrawal

            2. What is “gross inequality”?

              Inequality exceeding two standard deviations.

              1. Wrong. It’s a dozen dozen inequalities.

        2. Why is inequality bad? Should we all be the exact same level of intelligence? The exact same strength? The exact same skill set?

          Well, it would be nice if everyone were smart and strong. Having smart people and dumb people doesn’t really make the world any better, and severe inequality tends to destabilize society as those on the bottom are filled with envy and begin to demand coercive measures to rectify that inequality.

          Obviously perfect equality is not on the menu as people are conceived with different genes, and coercive attempts to bring about equality inevitably do so by making everyone dumber and weaker.

          There are also definitely both good and bad types of inequality. The inequality between a slacker who sits at home in a roach infested apartment eating ramen noodles three meals a day, and a woman who works her butt off in school and later in her job to get a higher paying job and live a comfortable life is a good thing.

          The inequality between that hard-working woman and a guy who gets appointed to a lucrative executive position solely because of his dad’s influence is bad inequality.

          These are two extreme examples of course, but just because some inequality is inevitable does not justify piling more of it on.

          1. The inequality between that hard-working woman and a guy who gets appointed to a lucrative executive position solely because of his dad’s influence is bad inequality.

            On the other hand, nepotism isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or the resources to allocate effort to look through 100 resumes, mostly full of people just taking the shotgun approach, when you know someone who will get the job done and will work well with your team.

          2. Horse racing is boring if every race is a dead heat.

          3. The inequality between that hard-working woman and a guy who gets appointed to a lucrative executive position solely because of his dad’s influence is bad inequality.

            Everything suggests, however, that those who earn more are doing more (or at least devoting more time) to earn it. The link shows hours worked, but the same is true in terms of scholastic achievement, attending university (itself entailing opportunity costs), and so forth. Society’s more meritocratic now than it was, and the increase in inequality can be explained in some part by the things that should create inequality, whether it’s certain innate skill sets or hard work.

            And another part can be explained by the entrance of billions of unskilled laborers into the global market, which is going to naturally generate some wage stagnation in the OECD’s low-skill sectors. Again, this is a good thing, if you consider human inequality more important than national inequality.

          4. Having smart people and dumb people doesn’t really make the world any better, and severe inequality tends to destabilize society as those on the bottom are filled with envy and begin to demand coercive measures to rectify that inequality.

            And the solution is to tell those people to fuck off.

        3. It would certainly make the Olympics much less interesting, if that is possible…

        4. Working on it.

    2. I can’t tell whether they ignore inequalities in power in favor of inequalities in wealth because they’re simply incredibly materialistic, or because they’re deliberately trying to distract people from tyranny by igniting their envy.

      1. Good point. How come there isnt a gini coefficient for power?

  9. The defense seems to be resting on the idea that absolute equality is the only other option. I think the complaint is that the Gini Coefficient for some countries (like the US) is higher than need be.

    Or are we arguing that since some level of inequality is natural and normal, it is natural and normal to let it go to extremes?

    1. What’s “natural” is the relephant question.

      Why does it matter that one person can afford to buy an island to live on while another can only afford to rent a one-bedroom?

      1. What’s “natural” is isn’t the relephant question.

        Time to go renew my ACES membership.

        1. Keep going…relevance isn’t a giant pachyderm.

    2. Isn’t restricting inequality “unnatural?”

      1. Isn’t restricting inequality “unnatural?”

      2. while I agree with this statement, I didn’t post it.

        1. The Handicapper General would like a word with you…

  10. Inequality, by itself, is fine if the poorest aren’t being left behind. But the “rising tide lifts all boats” analogy doesn’t fit. Inequality is growing.

    Just about everybody accepts inequality. You can’t get rid of it and it wouldn’t be desirable or possible to. That’s not the point. The point is, given our tremendous resource allotment, why are so many Americans getting left behind? And why is that percentage growing?

    1. Who fucking cares? Why should I get my panties in a twist if some guy has a trillion dollars? Or even if 1000 guys each have a billion dollars? What difference does that make to me? Unless I’m just a bitter, greedy, miserable bastard, which of course, I am.

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      Print|Email
      Egypt is Burning. But America Has Rampant Inequality!

      Josh Brokaw | February 3, 2011

      Political turmoil outside American borders offers pundits yet another chance to bring up their favorite failure of these United States: We have a higher level of inequality than whatever poor nation is currently going up in flames. This week, the U.S. is apparently worse off than Egypt.EVERYONE gets to wait 3 hours for gruel

      Public intellectuals who beat the wealth disparity drum have an argument that goes something like this: Inequality is bad; there is correlation between bad things and inequality; ergo, the U.S.A. is trucking down the Pan-American Highway to banana republicdom if Congress doesn’t repeal those pesky Bush tax cuts and go back to ’60s cartel economics.

      The University of Chicago’s Gary Becker explains why this line of reasoning doesn’t hold up:

      Many people, especially academics and other intellectuals, find the phrase “good inequality” jarring because they can hardly think of any aspect of inequality as being “good.” Yet a little thought makes clear that some types of economic inequality have great social value. For example, it would be hard to motivate the vast majority of individuals to exert much effort, including creative effort, if everyone had the same earnings, status, prestige, and other types of rewards.

      One really effective way to wind up with less inequality? Have less money. See this passage from Catherine Rampell’s New York Times review of Branko Milanovic’s The Haves and the Have Nots:

      At a very basic, agrarian level of development, Milanovic explains, people’s incomes are relatively equal; everyone is living at or close to subsistence level. But as more advanced technologies become available and enable workers to differentiate their skills, a gulf between rich and poor becomes possible. (HT: Mark Perry)

      A graph Rampell pulls from Milanovic’s book shows that America’s poorest 5 percent is richer, as a group, than about two-thirds of the world, and roughly equivalent with India’s wealthiest 5 percent.

      Egalitarians all too often confuse correlation with causation. A recent paper, “Cascading Expenditures,” posits a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses theory of inequality growth and credit bubbles that contains some truth nuggets. But last year’s The Spirit Level was a book full of dodgy conclusions; for example, the Japanese live longer due to their flatter incomes, not flatter bellies. Upticks in bad things like bankruptcies, divorces, and commute times are not the fault of America’s Gini coefficient.

      Watch Ferraris For All author Daniel Ben-Ami discuss “who the hell’s against economic progress” in an interview with Reason.tv

      More from Reason on economic growth and its discontents here.

      Help Reason celebrate its next 40 years. Donate Now!

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      ? California CRAs Rush to Pave Paradise,? | Main | New at Reason: Kurt Loder on? ?
      See all 21 comments | Leave a comment

      Editor’s Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time.
      Hugh Akston|2.3.11 @ 6:11PM|#

      And of course, even in a perfectly equal socioeconomic system, some comrades are more equal than others.
      reply to this
      R C Dean|2.3.11 @ 6:12PM|#

      For example, it would be hard to motivate the vast majority of individuals to exert much effort, including creative effort, if everyone had the same earnings, status, prestige, and other types of rewards.

      That’s what the jackboots and gulags are for. Pour encourager les autres.
      reply to this
      BakedPenguin|2.3.11 @ 6:14PM|#

      Josh, the photo on top is backwards.
      reply to this
      Ragin Cajun|2.3.11 @ 6:16PM|#

      Egalitarians all too often confuse correlation with causation.

      There’s a difference?
      reply to this
      Mike Laursen|2.3.11 @ 6:27PM|#

      Is anyone familiar with the methodology of these studies that investigate wealth or income disparity?

      Wealthier people tend to have more wealth in the form of more assets where valuation tends to be more abstract: stocks, options, etc. How do these studies assign value to those assets?
      reply to this
      ?|2.3.11 @ 6:38PM|#

      Josh, the photo on top is backwards.

      In subtlest joke ever, gruel waits for you.
      reply to this
      Wind Rider|2.3.11 @ 6:45PM|#

      Yeah, isn’t it just hilarious that all this ‘everybody has to be EQUAL, all the time!’ crypto Marxist crap promises the moon and stars, but really means that things MUST suck for everyone in practice?

      Oh, stop, my side, I’m bustin a freakin gut here.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.3.11 @ 6:48PM|#

      The “inequality is bad” crowd are some of the biggest hypocrites on the planet, yet for some reason, no one blasts them for it. Just another example of how if you say the right things, your actions are irrelevant. It is truly the greatest lesson you could take to heart if you want to be beloved by a certain class of people. And the people who have mastered this must be so contemptuous of the schmucks who eat up the right words and never demand even one iota of action to back it up.
      reply to this
      yonemoto|2.3.11 @ 6:52PM|#

      Hey, wait. I’m in the ‘inequality is bad’ crowd. I’m just against involuntary redistribution.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.3.11 @ 6:55PM|#

      Why is inequality bad? Should we all be the exact same level of intelligence? The exact same strength? The exact same skill set?

      What a horrible world that would be.
      reply to this
      yonemoto|2.3.11 @ 6:56PM|#

      Fair enough. I’m of the “gross inequality is bad” crowd.
      reply to this
      Episiarch|2.3.11 @ 7:00PM|#

      What is “gross inequality”? Is that when someone is beautiful and another person is ugly? When someone is amazing at sports and another is a klutz?

      These vague terms mean nothing.
      reply to this
      Peter|2.3.11 @ 6:52PM|#

      The defense seems to be resting on the idea that absolute equality is the only other option. I think the complaint is that the Gini Coefficient for some countries (like the US) is higher than need be.

      Or are we arguing that since some level of inequality is natural and normal, it is natural and normal to let it go to extremes?
      reply to this
      Hugh Akston|2.3.11 @ 7:05PM|#

      What’s “natural” is the relephant question.

      Why does it matter that one person can afford to buy an island to live on while another can only afford to rent a one-bedroom?
      reply to this
      Hugh Akston|2.3.11 @ 7:06PM|#

      What’s “natural” is isn’t the relephant question.

      Time to go renew my ACES membership.
      reply to this
      Ohhsweetconcord|2.3.11 @ 6:55PM|#
      “Inequality, by itself, is fine if the poorest aren’t being left behind. But the “rising tide lifts all boats” analogy doesn’t fit. Inequality is growing.”

      Your conclusion does not follow from your premise.
      *If* we doubled every person’s income, the gini would get worse.

      1. Whoa, what the heck, man.

        1. “Whoa, what the heck, man.”

          “copy”, no “preview” = embarrassed face icon.

          1. Sevo, you have taken an unequal allotment of posting space!

              1. Hugh,
                You left out:
                “MF!”

                1. My bad. *ahem*

                  Up aginsmf!t the wall!

      2. DANG! You got squirreled the fuck up, man!

        1. very small voice:
          ooops…..

      3. You accidentally the whole internet.

        1. I stupidly didn’t “preview”.

        2. I thought that was thunder I heard.

    3. Yes, there is a real problem where a lot of people in this country are having trouble affording the basics.

      As a libertarian, I see a lot of evidence that one of the biggest causes of the problem is the government sucking wealth out of the economy. I admit, it’s a complex topic, though, and it’s hard for anyone to prove any theory about the economy.

      1. At the same time, this whole perspective on nations is pretty irrelevant. On a global scale, inequality and poverty have been massively reduced.

        1. By liberalized economies.

      2. “it’s hard for anyone to prove any theory about the economy.” –
        Right. ask a dozen economists and get a dozen differant answers.

    4. why are so many Americans getting left behind?

      Wrong discussion for religious fiction.

      Do you know where inequality is growing the most?

      In the distribution of power between government and it’s favorite cronies and the rest of the citizens.

      Do something about that inequality and you’ll get less wealth inequality.

      1. Areed.

    5. Inequality, by itself, is fine if the poorest aren’t being left behind.

    6. The point is, given our tremendous resource allotment, why are so many Americans getting left behind? And why is that percentage growing?

      Define left behind.

  11. It looks like the sign says Moscow Pastry Shop (and something), so really, those comrades have no business waiting in line to not get any of the decadence within, anyhow.

    1. Moscow Pastry Shop – Bakery (bilochnaya)

      1. I’ll have to take your word for it, Ivan. All those backwards N’s and R’s look Greek to me.

        1. Which, I guess, look like regular N’s and R’s in that picture.

  12. Whoever introduced the word “equal” to political discourse is hopefully frying in the seventh circle or hell right now.

    Scratch that. They should have an eighth circle designed just for their benefit.

    1. By total coincidence, I was reading this very topic last night. Your culprit was a Belgian guy named “Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet”.

      1. Actually my culprit is Socrates, via Plato. But he was agin it.

    2. I guess that means you are against racial equality too. Typical libertard.

      1. You can say a lot of things about libertarians, but please don’t lump them in with this racist piece of shit. If there is one thing totally incompatible with libertarianism, it is racism.

        The problem isn’t with “equality” being introduced into the political discourse. The problem is the failure to distinguish equality of opportunity and equality under the law from enforced equality of outcome.

      2. Tony|2.4.11 @ 3:20AM|#
        “I guess that means you are against racial equality too.”

        I guess that means you’re a lying asshole.

    3. And a ninth circle for anyone that uses the term “social justice”

  13. I would take the rampant inequality of the USA versus the equality paragon Sweden any day.

    Living in a society where even pop stars only live in a two bedroom flat (so I have heard) must be exceedingly bland and uninspiring. Sweden actually has poor people, they are no better off than American poor people.

  14. Three of the countries with higher percentages of millionaires than the US has also have freer economies – Singapore, Hong Kong, & Switzerland. (The others are small Gulf states with a bunch of oil millionaires.)

    1. And the country with the lowest marriage rate also has the highest church attendance rate. (Vatican City)

      You can prove a lot of counterintuitive things using tiny countries (or in the case of HK, cherry-picked noncountries).

      1. HK is essentially a city. Did you know if you compare it directly to heavily regulated NYC it doesn’t measure up economically?

        1. HK is essentially a city. Did you know if you compare it directly to heavily regulated NYC it doesn’t measure up economically?

          Citation?

            1. 2008 numbers… I wonder how much it has changed. per capita looks like HK was off by about 50% back then.

            2. The raw numbers on overall wealth are very nice, but where are the comparisons of economic regulations and control for confounding factors?

              1. Are you serious? Are you serious?

  15. Uh, help!
    The copy function flew right up the thread!

    1. Good God, man! Do you know how many kilobytes you just wasted? And you could have given them to the poor and redueced the country’s byte inequality.

      1. Ah, the ‘digital divide’! Mea culpa!

  16. I think the people of Egypt are amazing! They got fed up and DID somethign about it. Meanwhile, back in America, the people get fed up, wave some stupid protest signs, nothing changes, they go back to business as usual. lol

    privacy-tools.au.tc

  17. Why is the answer to inequality always to make the rich and middle class poorer, and not to make the poor richer?

    And furthermore, why is inequality itself such a bad thing? What if the poorest person in the US led a middle class lifestyle, but was still much poorer than some trillionaires. Why would that be such a bad thing?

    1. Inequality is just a number that gives some information. And that number isn’t the whole story.

      Personally Id only care about inequality if my neighbors were going hungry, or turning to violent crime, or having a miserable life. Then I might, personally, do something.

      But smoking pot with bimbos in a basement and working 3 days a week sounds like a fun life. But I’m an idiot and work 5 days a week and no bimbos.

      So I think we should tax the rich. They have too much pot and too many bimbos. It’s only fair and equitable.

      1. I suspect that its the poor that have more pot and bimbos than the rich actually.

        1. I fail at humour.

          I meant that slacking off and enjoying your life made you an untaxable kind of “rich”.

          Like we redistribute wealth, but we don’t redistribute pot, or desirable partners or free time.

      2. Personally Id only care about inequality if my neighbors were going hungry, or turning to violent crime, or having a miserable life. Then I might, personally, do something.

        What would you do if they turned to violent crime?

        1. I think if people are acting violently because they are desperate the best solution would be to find them private-sector work.

          So I’d try and find a job for them and find a way to get them the things they need and want cheaper.

          If things get out of hand calling the police is an option. But even after their caught I think the strategy should be to find them something meaningful to do in the community that provides real value. So that they can rely on their labour to keep themselves clothed, fed, sheltered and entertained.

          Charity would also be in the mix of strategy. But it would always be voluntary charity.

          1. *their/they’re confusion.

            Why do I do a final read after I hit submit?

          2. I think if people are acting violently because they are desperate the best solution would be to find them private-sector work.

            If they act violently, they should be repaid in kind.

    2. Exactly. Poverty is a problem. Inequality by itself is not.

      1. Poverty is a problem.

        Not according to how it is defined .

        For those without knowledge of basic economics, poverty is not defined in terms of absolutes. It has nothing to do with absolute measures of subsistence, or health, or quality of clothing or standards of living. It is simply based on income percentiles; if you rank financially in the bottom third of the population, then you are below the poverty line (the exact placement of the poverty line may vary from country to country).

        To put this concept in stark relief, consider this: if everybody in North America experiences a tenfold increase in wealth over the next 30 days, the number of people living below the poverty line won’t change one iota. The “poor” grocery store clerks might have 6000 square foot homes and Porsches, but the “rich” people would have 30,000 square foot homes and McLarens (insert whatever ostentatious displays of wealth you prefer, if you’re not into cars).

        In other words, a general increase in the standard of living cannot possibly eliminate poverty, no matter how high that increase is. It’s all relative, so even the most comfortable country in the world must have poverty … unless the government forces everyone’s standard of living to be the same.

  18. This also ignores that a larger country will tend to have a higher Gini coefficient than a smaller one.

  19. The equality of Egyptian destitution is so wonderful, why don’t these intellectual fucktards go emigrate there?

  20. I imagine there are a good number of people whose objection isn’t to inequality per se, but that the wrong people have the long end of the stick.

    1. The middle always resents the top.

      No homo

  21. At a very basic, agrarian level of development, Milanovic explains, people’s incomes are relatively equal; everyone is living at or close to subsistence level. But as more advanced technologies become available and enable workers to differentiate their skills, a gulf between rich and poor becomes possible.

    Funny, that’s the exact argument the aristocracy was making against the industrial revolution and the peasant’s ability for self determination.

    1. “At a very basic, agrarian level of development, Milanovic explains, people’s incomes are relatively equal; everyone is living at or close to subsistence level. ”

      That is my wet dream for America. But, with gay rights, of course.

    2. What? The argument the aristocracy made was that they were simply naturally superior and deserving of more wealth. THey saw themselves as bringing order to society that would be dominated by chaos in the absence of their power. I’ve never heard anybody argue that the aristocracy was more productive than the peasants.

      1. I’ve never heard anybody argue that the aristocracy was more productive than the peasants.

        The aristocracy had the power to knock down walls and buildings and set whole cities on fire.

        That made them superior.

  22. Equality – A, B, and C are poor.

    Inequality – A is rich, and B and C are poor.

    Personally, I think one rich guy and two poor guys are better than three poor guys.

    1. Inequality – Three guys are rich. One has a huge dong.

      1. Helle, I swear you post idiotic shit to tempt me

        1. Don’t pop out your cunt pickle deary.

          1. you are such a little bitch. I left you fucking Easter eggs-go hunting prick

      2. Was that you peaking at the stall? It is pretty big.

        1. I always wondered what the ‘Almighty’ stood for.;-)

    2. Inequality- three middle-class guys, one of whom is bald.

    3. Personally, I think one rich guy and two poor guys are better than three poor guys.

      Depends – if the rich guy is the sheep and the two poor guys are wolves and they’re voting on what to have for dinner, then maybe not so good.

  23. nearly everyone can afford a computer in the US.

    The ability to own 2 PCs offers little or no advantage over only owning one computer.

    Not only did the inequality in the US create this phenomena but the phenomena itself alleviates the inequality.

    In a mass media mass production world the utility advantages of having a higher income are marginal…and that margin shrinks over time.

    Yes a rich guy can buy a yacht and a BMW and have a diamond etched into his ipod….but middle class guy can still buy a car and a boat and an ipod. the middle class guy with his meager wealth can achieve close to or above 90% of the same utility as the rich guy.

    This is drastically different today then it was in the past.

    I rich guy could go to the orchestra, eat meat and own a horse, while a middle income guy would be lucky if he had a cutting knife made of bronze and not wood.

    As wealth grows inequality shrinks irregardless of the fact that the wealth growth is due to individuals seeking to gain unequal gains.

    1. The ability to own 2 PCs offers little or no advantage over only owning one computer.

      That’s not true at all. If your computer gets a virus, malware, or develops some other problem where access to the internet is necessary for a solution, a second computer is nearly indispensible.

  24. Inequality is a sign of prosperity. Since the poor are always poor, the more inequality a nation has, the better off it is on average.

    1. The problem is too many people see the economy as a zero-sum proposition so they assume that if one person is getting richer, another must be getting poorer.

      1. The real problem is that those same people will never come to any other conclusion, because they are not smart enough to assess the value of their own beliefs.

  25. I wonder if inequality has more to do with cyclical poverty than lack of opportunity

    1. Inequality has nothing to do with poverty.

      1. how would you know?

        1. Because a country could be made up of billionaires and a millionaires and still be “grossly unequal.”

          1. words without content

            1. He’s a grad student.

  26. It’s not to understand why we on the left don’t like economic inequality. We dislike it basically for the same reasons why you don’t like political inequality. If the Kennedey’s got a thousand votes to your one vote I imagine some here would protest. It’s just that we think like votes money is power in this world.

    Ever since Rawls I think most serious liberals have made peace with the idea that there has to be some inequality to provide incentives that make society richer overall. But fairness makes us concerned when that inequality seems to be so gross.

    1. If the Kennedey’s got a thousand votes to your one vote I imagine some here would protest.

      Wow. Hopefully more than just ‘some’, and hopefully you MNG, as well.

      It seems odd that you so easily dismiss political inequality as something only valuable to ‘the other team’.

      One of the major errors in thought on the Left is the inability to see the linkage between political cronyism and inequality of opportunity.

      It’s as if you purposefully choose the system that will ensure the very result which you most detest.

  27. Why is inequality necessarily so bad? If Bill Gates was slightly less rich, how would that benefit the rest of us? Inequality would go down but I’d still have the same amount of wealth.

    Inequality just tells you the gap between the richest and the poorest, not really what constitutes being poor. In America, you can have three square meals a day, a roof over your head, decent clothing, a phone, and cable TV and still be considered poor. That seems pretty good compared to the rest of the world…who cares if there are also a bunch of billionaires living here?

  28. Inequality is the natural state of man, forget the “all men are created equal” nonsense, everyone is different from biology to achievements.

    The Taxpayer-Funded Lifestyle of Jimmy Carter.
    http://libertarians4freedom.bl…..jimmy.html

  29. But it’s not FAIR. Wahhh. I hate the word fair. The thing it defines doesn’t exist.

    You’ll never see these leftie pseudo-intellectuals giving away most of their assets so they will be financially “equal” to the poor they feign to care about.

    They’re also the same morons who are always railing against evil materialism. If materialism is so evil then being poor is a feature, not a bug.

    Which is it? It doesn’t matter because they’re all full of it anyways. They spout this commie jargon because they think it makes them seem smart to all of the other phonies in the world. They have no real conviction about it because they’re not smart enough to understand it.

  30. I always counter the “inequality is bad” types with “let’s give everyone 10 million dollars.” They usually eat that shit up.

    Of course, if you do that, prices skyrocket and nobody gets ahead or behind anyone right away. In less than a year the idiots will start playing the lottery again, skipping out on work and school, and piss their money away on hookers and blow. Most of the hard-working will invest some of that money and turn it into 15 million. The other 90% will hold onto it.

    In 3 years you’ll be right back to the same disparity. The bell curve and the law of supply-and-demand can be denied but can’t be stopped.

    1. …the idiots will start playing the lottery again, skipping out on work and school, and piss their money away on hookers and blow.

      Maybe those people understand something you don’t.

  31. Indeed, poverty is defined in terms of inequality .

    For those without knowledge of basic economics, poverty is not defined in terms of absolutes. It has nothing to do with absolute measures of subsistence, or health, or quality of clothing or standards of living. It is simply based on income percentiles; if you rank financially in the bottom third of the population, then you are below the poverty line (the exact placement of the poverty line may vary from country to country).

    To put this concept in stark relief, consider this: if everybody in North America experiences a tenfold increase in wealth over the next 30 days, the number of people living below the poverty line won’t change one iota. The “poor” grocery store clerks might have 6000 square foot homes and Porsches, but the “rich” people would have 30,000 square foot homes and McLarens (insert whatever ostentatious displays of wealth you prefer, if you’re not into cars).

    In other words, a general increase in the standard of living cannot possibly eliminate poverty, no matter how high that increase is. It’s all relative, so even the most comfortable country in the world must have poverty … unless the government forces everyone’s standard of living to be the same.

  32. Hey, the breadline picture is reversed left-right.

  33. Why did Obama roll out the red carpet for Chinese dictator Hu but turn his back on dictator Mubarak? Is it because Hu cracks down on Christians and others seeking to peaceably exercise their rights while Mubarak cracks down on Muslim fundamentalists? Is this just more of Obama’s kowtowing to the Muslim world?

    This man is selling America and her allies down the river. Just like Bill Clinton traded our nuclear secrets to the Red Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions, Obama has traded Britain’s nuclear secrets to Russia in exchange for the START treaty.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new…..rets.html#

    As embarrassing as WikiLeaks can be, it serves its purpose. After all, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  34. Why did Obama roll out the red carpet for Chinese dictator Hu but turn his back on dictator Mubarak? Is it because Hu cracks down on Christians and others seeking to peaceably exercise their rights while Mubarak cracks down on Muslim fundamentalists? Is this just more of Obama’s kowtowing to the Muslim world?

    This man is selling America and her allies down the river. Just like Bill Clinton traded our nuclear secrets to the Red Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions, Obama has traded Britain’s nuclear secrets to Russia in exchange for the START treaty.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new…..rets.html#

    As embarrassing as WikiLeaks can be, it serves its purpose. After all, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  35. Erin|2.5.11 @ 2:47PM|#
    “Why did Obama roll out the red carpet for Chinese dictator Hu but turn his back on dictator Mubarak? Is it because Hu cracks down on Christians and others seeking to peaceably exercise their rights while Mubarak cracks down on Muslim fundamentalists? Is this just more of Obama’s kowtowing to the Muslim world?”
    You should check for internal contradictions before posting.

    “Just like Bill Clinton traded our nuclear secrets to the Red Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions, Obama has traded Britain’s nuclear secrets to Russia in exchange for the START treaty.”
    Uh, the number of nukes that the US supplies to England *isn’t* a British “secret”.

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