Tag Archives: income inequality


For the past fifty years or so, liberal political theorists in the Anglophone world have taken it as axiomatic that the unequal distribution of advantage among human beings—not merely of social position, but also of natural endowments—is, in John Rawls’s famous phrase, “arbitrary from a moral point of view,” or inconsistent with the principles of justice or fairness. Not only is the mere fact of the unequal distribution unjust or unfair, they have claimed, but its injustice or unfairness must be seen to diminish our degree of moral responsibility for the actions we take. Each individual’s allotment of natural and social advantage, on this account, determines in important ways the choices that he or she will make and therefore renders traditional notions of merit or desert highly suspect. For some of these theorists, indeed, the way in which we play the cards we are dealt is itself simply a function of those cards, and inequalities deriving from our choices and effort are taken to be as morally arbitrary as those attributable to our talents and aptitudes.

Eric Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God

Growth Beats Global Redistribution

Simple arithmetic reveals that reallocating the existing world income cannot eliminate world poverty. In Misallocated Pie, when everyone gets an equal slice, everyone gets enough. In the real world, allocating equal slices means no one gets enough. We cannot end world poverty without significant widespread economic growth. 


Care About Income Inequality?

Complaints about income inequality are common. Leaving aside the generally bad economic and moral arguments that seek to make the case that such inequality is unjust, there is one argument that is worth considering.

What I have in mind are the subsidies available to those who purchase electric cars. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal describes this as nothing less than “blatant income transfer for the well-to-do.” The editorial board goes on to say that

Electric cars are significantly more expensive than the average vehicle, with a starting price of around $36,000. A recent Congressional Research Service study found that nearly 80% of the credits were claimed by households with adjusted gross income of more than $100,000. Sales data show that about half of all electric vehicle sales occur in one state—California.

A proposed bill with bipartisan support would expand the subsidy “cost[ing] taxpayers nearly $16 billion over the next decade.”

Besides the injustice of supporting the private economic decisions of the wealthy, the subsides themselves have not worked as promised. “CEO Elon Musk had been saying … that his competitors want the subsidies while Tesla doesn’t need them.”

Unfortunately for Musk and Tesla, “sales fell as the tax-credit[s]” have been paused out.” And while some would still argue for the positive net ecological benefit of electric cars, based on the results today, selling more electric vehicles won’t “have the slightest impact on the climate.”

Ending unjust subsidies for a commercially unviable product that fails to deliver on its promised ecological benefits seems to me to be a good place to battle income inequality.

More importantly, it highlights the significant moral difference between income inequality that is the result of differences in productivity and government intrusion in the market. The former is morally acceptable serving as it does the common good by producing goods and serves that (at least in principle) makes life better for many of us and so frees up resources for all of us. The latter, however, is morally unacceptable because, as electric car subsidies suggest, it redirects government and private resources to the benefit of a minority at the expense of the common good.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

For Consideration: Being Rich Is Cheaper in Big Cities

… simply put, in urban centers there are plenty of people who will partake in the same types of consumption (economies of scale) to uphold amenities like baseball stadiums, opera houses, and theaters and will drive down fixed costs for expenditures such as massages, organic food, and happy hour. Simultaneously, there are enough people that the “long tail” of consumption (economies of scope)— ethnic restaurants, high-end boutiques , and avant-garde theater— will also be in demand. This interplay of significant demand for the same things and the large sum of idiosyncrasies that emerge from having so many people with diverse backgrounds and preferences in the same place is what propels so many choices in urban centers. The sheer number of diverse inhabitants both drives the endless options of city amenities to be produced and creates the lines around the corner for every noodle/ cupcake/ cronut shop in town. In short, demand meets supply irrespective of the product or service.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, http://a.co/9JXs1UC“>The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class

For Consideration: Economic Inequality & Assortative Mating

… the dating market of urban centers (particularly as people marry like, rather than marrying “up” or “down,” a twenty-first-century trend economists term “assortative mating” 23 ). Smart people want to be around other smart people not just for work, but also for friendships and romantic relationships, and over time that results in highly stratified hyper-educated affluent places…

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, http://a.co/4FKHzLO“>The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class