Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wealth and Income Inequality

I was quite surprised to find that after my last post, there was a comment (or rant rather) 8,000 words long about income inequality. It has nothing to do with my post, but obviously came up in someone's search on blog posts about Oprah.

Despite the fact that the commenter has some emotional problems, he or she ranted on about one of my pet peeves which many people take for granted: income or wealth inequality. There are so many myths that surround this that disappear given a little thought:

1. Wealth is not based on a bell-curve. There is no limit to the amount of money one can make, so it is not surprising that there are people who become wildly rich,while others do not.

2. Wealth-creation is not a zero-sum game. Just because someone writes a book and sells a million copies does not take wealth away from anyone else. It may increase the "gap" in a statistical sense, but so what? I don't have any goods in my house magically disappearing every time a Harry Potter book is sold.

3. Even though the income or wealth gap may be large, the standard of living gap is not. The difference between Oprah's day to day life and my day to day life is not at the same scale as the difference in our wealth. Her day might be filled with more assistants and luxury products, but we both sleep in a bed, eat three meals, take a shower, etc. If the standard of living scale matched the wealth scale, I would not have running water or electricity. Despite the constant publicity regarding statistical "gaps," the standard of living is increasing for everyone on the globe overall.

4. What is the answer to materail "inequality"? Material Equality? Based on what? Everyone should have the same amount of money coming in? Who is supposed to decide who has what? Greed is laying a claim to something you haven't earned. Oprah is not greedy. She has earned her wealth fair and square. Good for her. Childish people who claim it is unfair somehow need to look at their own greed.

1 comment:

Matt Smith said...

Very well said, but I think as the economic problems become worse around the world more and more people are going to see it as a zero sum game.

The "rich" and the "haves" are likely to be vilified in a way we've never experienced (especially in the US).