"INCOME INEQUALITY" AND OTHER BOOGEYMEN
(Warning: this is where I talk like a Republican. All bleeding hearts should prepare to apply a tourniquet.)
If you go around the horn on any liberal talk show, at least one of the participants will point out, as the greatest problem in our Republic, "income inequality." Really? That's your issue?
Let's be clear. If we are talking about the difference in income between a man and a woman working for the same employer and doing the same job, you've got my attention. If you are talking about a Filipino and a white guy doing the same job for the same employer, then a substantial inequality between them gets my human rights juices flowing.
On the other hand, if "income inequality," simply means that some folks in some families in our great land make different amounts of money from one another and enjoy different property holdings, you're now officially boring me. Folks, our citizens have different amounts of education, different amounts of ambition, different amounts of energy, different amounts of imagination, different amounts of courage differences in hand/eye coordination, differences in spatial skills and even differences in geographic advantages (how many oceanographers you know from North Dakota?).
When "income inequality" is trotted out as a negative thing, the assumption is that the ideal situation would be for all of us to make about the same amount of money or to own about the same amount of property. That theory has been tried and it seems to have a couple of small hiccups in it.
If the talent of one American enables him to invent Flubber and his grade school classmate's talents direct him to trimming other people's hedges for pay, the Flubber guy is going to make more money simply because he adds more to the societal pot. What on earth is wrong with that?
The inequality in our country that is heartbreaking is not income inequality. It is educational inequality. It is neighborhood safety inequality. Is the inequality that allows one kid to have two loving nurturing, interested parents and the next kid a runaway, absentee father and addict mother. In short, it is "opportunity inequality." When that kid with the poor opportunity does not succeed, we all lose. That is not a matter of income inequality. That is a matter of societal loss.
Funny thing is that, when the extreme lefties scream about the evils of "income inequality," the conservatives pretty much cower or shut up. On this one the righties have a perfectly valid argument. Income inequality has happened because of the shortage of opportunity for some and not because of some governmental policy to make the rich richer.
There is nothing wrong with income inequality as long as the difference in income simply reflects free will choices made by the people on the bottom of the income comparison.
There cannot be a meaningful discussion of income inequality without there being a parallel discussion of equality of energy, intellect, creativity and simple gumption.
I wish the folks on the left would quit rattling this term off. On the other hand, I wish my conservative friends would stand up for meaningful capitalism at is as it is practiced in the United States. Income inequality is only bad to the extent that it is tied to systemic opportunity inequality.