How much equality do we want?



Grant that extreme economic inequality is a bad thing.  Grant that ever-increasing economic inequality is a bad thing.

Grant that complete equality of incomes is not feasible and maybe not desirable.  How much equality is enough?

The economist Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom (as I recall) that it is impossible that people could reach a consensus on what each and every person deserves.   Once you reject complete equality, he  wrote, the only acceptable distribution of income is what results from the impersonal working of the free market.

A democratic government could never determine a distribution of income that is satisfactory to everyone, or even a majority, Hayek thought; if it tries, the result can only be gridlock and a breakdown of democracy.

But there are ways to reduce inequality that neither set limits on any individual’s aspirations nor give some group of bureaucrats the power to decide who gets what.   Some that come to mind immediately are:

  1. Prosecute those who get rich by lawbreaking.
  2. Set limits on unearned income.
  3. Break up monopolies.
  4. Empower labor unions and cooperatives.
  5. Provide good public services to all, regardless of income.
  6. Provide decent jobs for all who are willing and able to work.

What are your ideas?


How Do Americans Get Rich (And Stay Rich?) by Steve Roth for Evonomics.

Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer by Dean Baker (book excerpt)

The US Protects Its Wealthy Professionals Financially While Throwing Workers to the Wolves, an interview of Dean Baker for Truthout.

Any Way You Calculate It, Income Inequality Is Getting Worse by Pete Dolack for Counterpunch.

Economic growth in the United States: A tale of two countries by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman for the Center for Equitable Growth.

Celebrating the One Percent by Michael Hudson for The Unz Review.

Why So Few American Economists Are Studying Inequality by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic.

Why the Deeply Held Ideas of the Nation’s Most Elite Economists Were Direct Causes of Extreme Inequality by Jeff Madrick for Evonomics.

Work Harder So Speculators Can Get More by Pete Dolack for Counterpunch.

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