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The Inequality Demagogues

Inequality—of wealth and income—has risen within developed nations in recent years. This has precipitated the popular ascent of the inequality demagogues. These firebrands decry a society fractured by rapacious elites, who “rig” the economy to swindle the helpless masses. In 2015, Bernie Sanders, then a contender for the Democratic presidential candidacy, invited his supporters to join him in a “political revolution” against the “one percent,” whose “greed,” he blamed for “destroying our economy.”

Inflammatory rhetoric like this resonates with people and can be remarkably successful in generating furious outrage. This is because large disparities in wealth and income are an affront to intuitive notions of fairness, and if a politician insists those disparities can be painlessly eliminated by the mere exercise of political will, they also seem unnecessary. It doesn’t help that many of the wealthiest have capitalized on their relative power through dubious (though usually legal) means. They attain lower tax rates by exploiting tax loopholes, or by manipulating income in order to benefit from the lower capital gains rate. Similar tactics are adopted by companies. For example, some of Apple’s subsidiaries paid an effective tax rate of only 0.005% in 2014.

These are serious problems. However, framing them as inequality issues, as the inequality demagogues do, is misguided and produces policies that treat the symptoms of the malady, and not the cause itself. The panacea they offer is the promise of secure and lucrative employment for all. This will be delivered by a three-pronged economic strategy known as ‘Boost, Protect, and Generate’ (BPG); boost wages, protect jobs from foreign competition, and generate new ones. But this apparently commonsensical approach can have grave repercussions for three reasons.

First, mandating high pay (the ‘Boost’ part) can result in more unemployment, as employers find they can no longer afford to pay their workforce. This claim is a matter of genuine debate among economists. But Sanders’s proposals to more than double the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, in spite of America’s widely variant economic landscape, would almost certainly create more problems than it is intended to solve. States with low costs of living and small businesses would likely struggle to meet wage demands, which would produce more widespread unemployment among the poor.

UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn

Second, protecting American jobs from foreign competition usually entails an ideological opposition to free trade. Like Donald Trump, Sanders has championed reneging on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements, which he characterises as deals signed by and for the benefit of ‘elites’ at the expense of the working class. In the same way, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK Labour party, has denounced the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement between the EU and America. And, last year, President Trump revoked the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by executive order. These self-defeating strategies may be popular but they damage the economy and the interests of those they are ostensibly intended to benefit. Protectionism does not create jobs. On the contrary, an analysis by the Trade Partnership consultancy predicts that increases in the price of steel and aluminum under the recent tariffs imposed by Trump will, in the short term, create 33,000 metal-making jobs and destroy 179,000 metal-dependent ones. This is because many more jobs rely on trade than are threatened by it. Even if some jobs are revived they are unlikely to survive in the long term. Moreover, the TTIP trade deal was supposed to build a Western free trade bulwark against China to prevent further exploitation not facilitate it.

Third, the ‘Generate’ part of BPG requires investment schemes. These are not necessarily a problem, but the means of raising and providing the necessary funds usually are. Jeremy Corbyn, for instance, has suggested that the Bank of England should print money for “new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects” in a scheme he calls the “People’s Quantitative Easing.” However, critics point out that Corbyn’s proposed policy risks triggering higher inflation, with the poorest households paying the price when their savings are eroded. Others also balk at Corbyn’s claims that £120bn could be recovered from tax avoidance and evasion, as companies seek new ways to avail themselves of tax havens. Instead of encouraging efficient private investment, which comes at no cost to the state, he wants to pay for public spending through sharp corporate tax increases, which will only encourage businesses to leave and set up elsewhere.

Steven Pinker

The greater problem with all this is that inequality demagogy is premised upon a misunderstanding of how wealth is created and distributed. The apocryphal story we are used to hearing is one in which, as Bernie Sanders is fond of repeating, the “rich get richer; everyone else gets poorer.” This kind of zero-sum thinking is a characteristic of the ‘lump fallacy,’ which Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive psychologist, describes in his new book Enlightenment Now as “the mindset in which wealth is a finite resource […] so that if some people end up with more, others must have less.” Pinker reminds us that, although the poorer half of the population still have the same percentage of the total wealth that they had in 1910—five percent—that wealth is vastly greater now. A 2011 estimate by Measuring Worth showed a seventeen-fold increase in real GDP per capita between 1871 and 2009.

That the share of increased income is more unequally distributed than it was in, say, 1996 does not mean that the poor have become poorer. On the contrary, over the proceeding decade, the percentage of U.S. households making under $75,000 (inflation-adjusted) fell by 11.5 percent. In other words, 11.5 percent more US households receive $75,000 or more in annual income. This figure accounts for increases in divorces and working children moving back home by using individual tax data, following primary and secondary taxpayers separately, and excluding those under twenty-five. The progress does not end there. Capitalism has succeeded in producing new, better, and cheaper products. The results range from life-saving drugs for under $10 to affordable and ubiquitous smartphones and free online education and tutoring. These developments benefit everyone immensely, and help to enhance social mobility. This contradicts another misconception—that the same group of people are condemned to languish eternally in poverty. In fact, between 1996 and 2005 around half of American households in the bottom 20 percent had moved out of the bottom quintile in income. The same trend has occurred in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

You may wonder whether others lose out as a result. Indeed, some drop down the income rankings. This is known as downward mobility and can be harmful to a society. However, those moving in the opposite direction are often in the upper quintiles of income. The percentage of households who drop into lower income quintiles increases for each jump in quintile. This partly explains why nearly 60 percent of taxpayers in the top one percent in 1996 had dropped out of the top one percent by 2005. Further, more than half of Americans will spend at least one working year among the top ten percent of income earners. The reason for this is that at these high levels there is a greater chance for incomes to drop or be passed out by rising ones. Thus, those afflicted by this countervailing force as those best able to withstand it. Moreover, when measured in income brackets (rather than income rankings), the effect is weak, suggesting they are not in danger of losing everything.

The conclusion here is that, the poor are, in fact, getting richer, so the implication that the opulent are somehow plundering the coffers of the penurious is simply false. The successful corporations despised by inequality demagogues positively add to our societies. They produce products that people want, they generate jobs, and they pay considerable amounts of tax. Yes, it is true that some avoid and others evade doing so, but overall the top one percent of income earners contribute nearly 40 percent of the total income tax revenues, while the bottom half pay less than three percent. This revenue largely funds social spending, which is often excluded from measures of wealth and income distribution, even though it is a massive source of income for the impoverished. Due to public social spending (as well as employer-funded social spending and the development of new products), the poverty rate in America has fallen by 75 percent over the last 50 years. In other words, a welfare system mainly funded by the wealthy has been instrumental in improving the lives of the destitute.

Inequality is growing. But the fate of the poor matters more. And the condition of the worst-off—both in Western societies and worldwide—has improved tremendously over the past half-century. That is not to say that real problems do not remain. Automation is a possible harbinger of great economic turmoil and upheaval as it becomes increasingly difficult to find jobs for people to do. And reasonable people will continue to debate ways in which the most excessive economic disparities might be mitigated so that created wealth is more fairly distributed. Addressing such questions will require a panoply of intricate strategies. There is no panacea, and populist approaches like ‘BPG’ will almost certainly do more harm than good, even as they enthuse rally crowds filled with the people they promise to help.

The inequality demagogues reduce complex problems to an eternal cosmic struggle between the greedy, vampiric rich and the helpless, suffering poor. Their followers should be wary of insurrectionary slogans and the economic snake oil they peddle. Their crude outlook is not only inaccurate, it is pernicious. Along with the postmodern denial of demonstrable progress, it encourages suspicion that the ‘system’ is fundamentally corrupt, which in turn stokes conspiracism, division, resentment, and paranoia. Unemployment; wasteful public expenditure; low private investment due to high public debt and taxation; economic decline; a self-perpetuating dearth of innovation—these are not problems easily solved once created. As a society, we must divert our focus from attaining complete equality to ameliorating the very real plight of the poor. This way we can promote the adoption of nuanced, effective responses rather than propping up unprofitable work. Only then can we enhance living standards.

Featured Pic by DonkeyHotey

 

Luke Killoran is a freelance writer, covering politics and philosophy.

78 Comments

  1. steve says

    The national debt is 77% personal debt. Can the libertarian political agenda help people live their lives without becoming indebted to corporations? These living conditions are built on debt and that stresses people out.

    • Shenme Shihou says

      Telling 18 yo kids not to go $90,000 in debt for a degree in gender studies is a start.

    • Franklin Wright says

      Start teaching personal responsibility in schools again. It’s amazing what happens when a person takes control of their life.

      • SRH says

        … is the usual self-serving reply from a wealthy, white libertarian. But you’re not any of those, are you, Mr Wright?

    • Fred Z says

      I employ 4 construction laborers and 2 tradesmen. They all smoke tobacco, vape nicotine or smoke marijuana. The nicotiners claim to spend between 10 and 20 dollars a day on nicotine and about $20 on beer. The pothead doesn’t drink but his daily spending on marijuana is about the same as the other guys total on smokes and booze.

      They all eat out multiple times per week, even if only at a burger joint. They all drive gas guzzler pickup trucks.

      4 of the 6 have (pseudo) spouses with the same habits.

      They are all broke all the time.

      How exactly is this being broke all the time the fault of large corporations, or anyone but themselves?

      • Jeff York says

        Fred, agreed. I grew up on my parents’, aunts’ and uncles’ stories of life during the Great Depression. (And I served in seven third-world dystopias). It was drilled into me from birth that the world doesn’t owe me anything; to take responsibility for myself; to work, practice thrift and save.

        I come from humble working-class origins. Like so many of my generation I was the first in my family to go to college. (Thank you, GI Bill). What I know to be true is that there are lots of “poor” people in America who can nevertheless come up with $300-500 each month for alcohol, cigarettes, lottery-tickets, cable, “bling,” and sundry impulse-buys. I’ve known a great many of these people; met a lot of them in the army. Virtually without exception they were each their own worst enemy. (The so-called poor in the developed world are actually rich beyond the wildest dreams of 99.99% of all people who have ever lived).

  2. 8 in 10 Americans are in debt. Half live paycheck to paycheck. Any measure of wealth or income that does not mention crushing student, medical and credit card debt is not honest. And that’s the can eternally being kicked down the road, that individuals must take on insurmountable debt to have a chance at entering the upper classes. What happens when that debt cannot be paid? Capitalists have no answer, the assumption is that a 3% growth rate in the economy can continue forever, without environmental degradation, without climate change, or a debt crisis, or a jobs crisis. Writing off Sanders’ ideas about healthcare, education and wages (which have been stagnant in the US since the 1970s) is taking on a Panglossian view that permanent debt, an unstable job market, fewer benefits, no career stability, and the accumulation of wealth (which also translates into political power, a major, major point that only goes noted by the left) can continue on forever.

    Inequality is not inherently bad until it becomes obvious that political voice scales with wealth. Then, it becomes a threat to democracy, as it already has, wherein Bush and Clinton dynasties are upended by Trump out of the sheer audacity of those billionaire-funded legacy campaigns. Now, in 2018, Sheldon Adelson and Michael Bloomberg vow tens of billions of dollars to be pumped into the political system propping up DOA candidates who have no new ideas…

    • Bill says

      Wait, you’re saying writing off Sander’s ideas about “Free everything for all” is taking on a optimistic vision where permanent debt/etc can continue? Part of the reason for that permanent debt is due to the journey down the path of Sander’s ideas. Living within a budget hoping for a 3% growth is not optimistic when compared to a Democratic Socialist view which would require hoping for a 5-6% growth to pay for all of the extra “free stuff.”

      I would challenge the assertion that political voice scales with wealth and point to the 2016 election where all of the wealth went one way and the poor electorate voted in the other guy. I know what you’re trying to say, that the egotistical wealthy dumping in billions on DOA candidates…etc; however, this isn’t scaling political voice only political noise. Political voice implies that they drive the electorate which may have been true from Obama on backwards but clearly isn’t the case now in all cases. Perhaps in some local/state races where that influx of outside cash from the Russo-Kalifornian elite to skew races in other states (OMG! Russia meddling in the US! But not OMG! Californians meddling in ) but it isn’t a permanent/automatic result as Trump’s election illustrates.

      • I’m talking about personal debt, not national debt, which actually affects people day to day. The question is how crushed do we want individuals to be in a modern society. Do we want those burdens on the state or on individual people? For those who want “free stuff”, the calculus is that a pool of resources shared, scaling with wealth and taxation, is better than simply letting a certain percentage of the population go without health care or the elite education afforded by those who occupy the upper echelons of American society.

        Thomas Ferguson does good empirical work on financing and elections. Suffice to say, that is exactly how 2016 went. If you look at Trump’s free marketing from the media and the billionaire money that poured into his coffers after the RNC, he was a propped-up aristocratic candidate like Clinton. He had many gifts given to him by media and billionaires that plastered him everywhere, inflated his image, and made him a magnet toward which all political thought was attracted. He did it the same way all elections are won – marketing. He did spend less, but that is because Trump had an an abnormally high amount of publicity, and because his opponent was such a moneyed aristocrat that her only recourse was spending astronomically.

    • rhadagastt says

      Here’s an answer for you: don’t get into debt in the first place. College and credit card debt are avoidable. Medical debt is sometimes not, but the simple fact is that MOST debt involves someone signing on a bottom line when nobody is holding a gun to their head. Why on Earth would a person pay upwards of $100,000 to get a liberal arts degree when there are no jobs out there begging for liberal arts majors? Nobody has a right to a college degree, especially one that fails to further one’s marketability.

      I know multiple people that have entered into the upper classes without taking on debt. I’m not one of them — I incurred $60,000 for a law degree, but I was able to get a good job that helped me pay off that debt. You post shows you to be a very entitled person. Capitalists don’t need to give you an answer other than– figure it out for yourself. We live in the richest society in the history of the world, and poor people today live better than medieval kings. If you can’t make it today without incurring 6 figures worth of debt, you are either highly incompetent or are living a cursed life.

      • “Your post shows you to be a very entitled person.”

        Can you read a single word? Put the words I wrote together. Think. “Half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck”. That means losing your job, or even hours from your job, or a reduction in pay, places you immediately in debt. Miss one payment on a car, or rent, or otherwise and now a spiral begins.

        Look in the mirror for God’s sake – you went to law school and are a lawyer. That is a top profession with very little room for everyone in society to snag such a well-paying elite job.

        The debt comes from job insecurity, college debt (not just liberal arts, what a snide remark!), and yes, medical debt, which you gloss over because you know it’s unjustifiable yet I’m pretty sure you reject universal health care out of false pride and piety anyway.

        • Your first comment is interesting, and, I think, worth discussing. I tend to fall into the same personal responsibility camp as your fellow debaters, but I agree with you that it should be addressed in articles like these and in the larger conversation about economy.

          I would just add that I reject universal health care, not out of false pride and piety (not sure what that means), but because nationalizing things, in general, doesn’t seem to make them better. Doctors offices are struggling beneath a mountain of insurance-related bureaucracy. Strip all of that out, allow patients and providers to establish the conditions by which they will do business, and prices will drop like a stone.

          Appreciate your comments.

          • augustine says

            Yes, a direct relationship with doctors would make a lot more sense economically, by eliminating the insurance middleman. Whether service costs would “drop like a stone” I’m not sure, but future increases should slow considerably. Insurance coverage could then be restricted to “catastrophic” medical events, say, north of 5K or requiring hospital. Anyone who can pay for medical insurance can probably pay $50-150 per visit directly to the provider.

            I read something about this issue where it was noted that doctors generally have NO IDEA what their billings are per patient, or per procedure. This makes open bidding or counter-offers more difficult but worth a try. Paying cash for something directly usually gives the seller an incentive to offer a discount.

            Liberals with concerns about social issues never seem to understand that the people whose causes they champion already have substantial, unexercised power in the marketplace. Why not help them figure out how to navigate instead of only selling government as the solution?

    • ccscientist says

      NOT true that wages have not changed since the 1970s. Lots of evidence proving you are wrong. The average car is nicer, average home is bigger, people eat out more (much more), etc. In the 1970s few people had a color TV or air conditioning or 2 cars compared to now.

  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv5t6rC6yvg

    “The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy.” – Margaret Thatcher, 22 Nov 1990.

    • toryhere says

      It’s unfortunate we don’t have Mrs T now

  4. The dual symbols for this emerging Democratic Party should be “Death & Slavery.”

    Socialism = death

    Abortion = death

    War on law enforcement = death

    Identity politics = slavery to your tribe

    Free stuff for all = slavery (only slaves get a free ride so long as they happily accept their bondage)

    Raise taxes = slavery to the state

  5. D.B. Cooper says

    Inequality is an intractable problem – insofar as one considers it a problem. That is, even under perfect conditions (elimination of political corruption, asymmetric information, etc.) we should expect wealth and income differentials to exist within and between societies, given the differences we see in individuals’ interests and abilities.

    • ga gamba says

      Indeed. Once the demands for equity are added to the mix it becomes utterly unmanageable.

      The Cloward – Piven strategy at work.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        The Cloward-Piven strategy is an interesting approach to achieving a Universal Basic Income (UBI). While I’m not familiar with the Cloward-Piven strategy, per say; I understand some libertarian thinkers – Charles Murray comes to mind – are proponents of UBI.

        Unfortunately, my understanding of UBI transfer payments is admittedly limited, although I presume they would have some effect (positively or negatively) on other macroeconomic forces, such as labor markets; GDP; national expenditures, debt, etc. But, again, I’m not in a position to say with any confidence.

        As far as “demands for equity” are concerned, I’ve always considered such requests to exist along the spectrum somewhere after demands of a petulant child, but before and well short of red-light inquiries from the indigent, so not very important. As long you’re living above subsistence and you’re there of your own accord, then any “demands for equity” amounts to basically, you being jealous; and I don’t normally support transfer payments on the grounds of someone’s jealousy. It is a perverse incentive, to be sure.

        • ga gamba says

          The Cloward-Piven strategy was a blueprint for making massive disruptions in the welfare system of the United States. In the 60’s when they wrote it they assumed many who were eligible for welfare weren’t receiving it and UBI would address this shortfall. My understanding of it today is to break systems, for example healthcare, by increasing the number of obese people who also have other diseases, such as type II diabetes, and some of whom demand gastric bypass surgeries. So, the body positivity movement (that tends not to be positive about thin healthy people) is a way to increase the number of fat people who have chronic conditions that stretch or are beyond their budgets to force universal healthcare.

    • Not far away from the City of Roses
      They all watched those lights up through the rain
      For D.B. Cooper

  6. Defending the TPP? Really? Did you even bother to research the effect it would have. The TPP would allow multinationals to sue a country for damages if any of their laws negatively effect profit. Whats that? I’m not allowed to dump toxic waste in the Mississippi River? Oh the arbitrator we paid for just awarded us 1 billion dollars per year the law is in effect. The TPP would effectively sign away our national sovereignty over our own law to multinational corporations. Hell freaking no.

    • ga gamba says

      What you are describing is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, one that exists is thousands of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties around the world. That people didn’t know this suggests to me people weren’t paying attention to “free” trade agreements that have been enacted beginning decades ago.

      What’s the rationale? Not all countries have efficient and incorruptible courts. Further, many politicians of a nationalist or activist stripe like to propose and enact laws that discriminate against foreigners. Even in the London you have politicians demanding foreigners not be allowed to purchase estate and those properties presently owned by non-resident foreigners (of x number of days) be expropriated. A year and a half ago Vancouver imposed a 15% tax on foreign home buyers, and the Chinese claimed this was targeted at them. That this happens in the UK and Canada, countries which presumably adhere to a rule of law applied equally to all is worrisome. Mind you, the legal systems in the developing world are considered worse. Further, sometimes local government enacts laws that breach the national laws (this has included laws breaching the First and Second Amendments of the US Constitution, which were later over turned), and it may take years for the cases to work their way through the legal system.

      Suffice it to say, fucking with foreigners, especially those perceived to have money, is often politically popular, and usually the foreigners have little political recourse since they can’t vote.

      In trade agreements there exists the principle of national treatment. i.e. the law, as well as the enforcement and the judicial systems will treat citizens and foreigners equally.

      National treatment has each party pledge it will not discriminate against an investment on the basis of its national origin, except as specifically provided in the treaty, for example the may buy condos but not land; will at a minimum provide investments of the other parties fair and equitable treatment and full protection and security;
      will refrain from expropriation except for a public purpose, in accordance with due process, and upon payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation; and will permit free transfers of funds relating to investments.

      Governments often are not as brazen as Vancouver’s and London’s. For example, if most cafes owned by nationals are small, and those owned by multinational are large, and I create laws that requires cafes of greater than a certain size in square metres to pay a disposable cup fee, extra taxes, provide additional benefits to workers, limit their operation hours, etc. it appears the law was targeted against foreigners. Governments are crafty at creating non-tariffs barriers to appease local constituents.

      The ISDS uses legal experts, often not beholden to local political interests, and who may not even be citizens of either country if it’s a multilateral treaty, to investigate, arbitrate, and rule expeditiously. If damages were incurred then fines may be levied.

      Per your example of polluting water. If the law is applied uniformly to all, then the foreign company doesn’t have a leg to stand on. However, if the law targeted attributes that are held only by, or mostly by, foreign companies then they may have a claim. It’s up to the panel to determine it.

      Of course the law and its enforcement is very complex, much more than my few paragraphs can do justice, but I hope it aids your understanding. And if not yours, then others reading this.

      • Why on Earth should a government not create policies that favor its own people? I’m flabbergasted.

        Yes, Chinese are buying up property and making it impossible for locals to afford a house. Perhaps a parable will illustrate.

        Auntie Lim (fictional) from Shanghai was a migrant from an inner China city and moved to Shanghai in the 1980s. She started a small business (aluminium scrap) and it exploded beyond her wildest dreams. Despite being almost illiterate and innumerate (never had formal education beyond grade school) she is now a multimillionaire. She hires staff to read to her and help her in accounts.

        Auntie Lim is now getting on in age and needs to launder her wealth (mostly in cash – can you visualize entire rooms full of cash from floor to ceiling) and it can’t be done in Chinese banks. If she doesn’t do this she will have a bad time leaving her wealth in her inheritance since so much of it is off the books. Her agents tell her that property is the best way to trade in paper money for real assets. Being from the countryside she understands the value of land and quickly agrees – buying up houses in Australia and Canada, paid for mostly in hard cash. Very little loan (she doesn’t trust interest, being unable to calculate it herself). The rental income from these houses is irrelevant to her, in fact tenants are a liability since they need to be managed (need to hire an agent) and they may even destroy the house which takes money to repair. She’d rather keep her properties in pristine condition thus sets the rental high to discourage “undesirable” tenants from renting.

        Multiply this story 1000 times and you will understand why Chinese are buying property all around the world. Older Chinese have a particular fondness for land. The Chinese soul and mind and heart is tied to land. Read “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck to get an idea what land means to the older Chinese.

      • Joe Bobbles says

        @ga gamba

        This is the first time I absolutely disagree with you. It is insane to allow extremely wealthy foreign investors purchase a scarce and fundamental commodity (shelter) that results in driving local housing prices beyond the reach of the residents who actually live, work, and sustain those communities.

        Rule of law applies to the citizens within a nation. Using different rules for foreign investment of local housing stock, as Japan does, is common sense if you want to support your own citizens’ investment in local communities.

        • Joe Bobbles says

          One small addition: the American founding fathers believed property ownership to be a crucial element in fostering civic participation and communal ties. People tend to treat their fungible rental property and the surrounding neighborhood very differently than they do their own house.

          I’m a bit surprised that you don’t see this, but in general I greatly appreciate your comments.

    • You’re supposed to only follow the writer’s ‘argument’, not disrupt it by knowing stuff. The writer seems to think if something is labeled ‘free trade agreement’, well, that’s just what it is. Moronic.

  7. ga gamba says

    I enjoyed the essay, Mr Killoran.

    Income inequality is often represented by the Gini co-efficient, a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality. The Scandinavian countries are reported frquently as having low income inequality. For example the World Bank reports Sweden’s is 0.272. Afghanistan’s is 0.278. Congratulations to the Afghanis on creating a Scandinavian-level equality!

    “But… but… but… Afghanistan is at war, so they more equal because they are impoverished.”

    Okie dokie, fair enough. Would you prefer to live in Kazakhstan’s economy of fairness at 0.265 or Canada’s much less equal 0.34? Cambodia is 0.308 and has nice weather too. It’s even more equal that Korea’s 0.316.

    Game Theory and Behavioural Economics have identified a phenomenon where people will accept less favourable outcomes for themselves, i.e. a penalty, provided it prevents others from acquiring more advantages. Given a choice of option A ($3 for oneself and $10 for the other) and option B ($10 for oneself and $100 for the other) most people chose A, thereby denying themselves seven extra dollars. They lost sight of their own wealth by becoming fixated on the how much more was going to the other and the gap of the outcome. People will penalise themselves to penalise others even more. Adding Option C ($2 for oneself and $1 for the other) proved very popular; people will accept even less to swing the power in their own direction. Option D ($1 for both players, i.e. equality) was not as popular as one would expect given how much people say they want equality. We see this manifested with the equity movement where equality is dismissed as being insufficient and unjust.

    Better to live in a country where the free-enterprise system is allowed to flourish with regulation to prevent excesses such as dumping mercury in the river. When the reward for taking the risk is negligible many innovators will decide the hassle (long hours, paperwork, managing people, figuring out the stacks of regulations) isn’t worth it.

    • Daniel says

      Illuminating!

      The Gini co-efficient and the example from game theory.

    • @ ga gamba

      “Would you prefer to live in Kazakhstan’s economy of fairness at 0.265 or Canada’s much less equal 0.34?”

      Nah! Not the a fair comparison at all. A much better and more interesting question be would you prefer to live in India or Kazakhastan.

      • ga gamba says

        Not only is it a fair comparison, in the context of activists and politicians whingeing about income inequality it’s the entirely accurate one to use. It’s how they framed the issue. Their single point of analysis is the Gini coefficient and lower is better because the people are more equal. A better analysis is one that also examines the quality of life, for example in more equal Kazakhastan does one have a higher standard of living than less equal Canada? This evaluates what trade offs people are willing to make.

        BTW, India’s is 0.351, which makes it more unequal than any of the other countries I mentioned in my first comment.

        • Nope. I disagree entirely. Comparing developing and developed economies on this basis alone is plain silly. It shows nothing much of merit.

          Sweden Vs USA for example is better comparison than Nigeria VS USA.

          “for example in more equal Kazakhastan does one have a higher standard of living than less equal Canada?”

          Highlights silliness of the comparison quite beautifully. How rich the economy and its state of development matters. This is why it is better asking:

          Is quality of life better in Sweden or USA.

          – –

          “BTW, India’s is 0.351, which makes it more unequal”

          And? So which developing country [if you had to choose] is better to live in – India or Kazakhastan?

          • Cheester says

            Writing with a self-congratulatory tone while missing the point is an interesting approach, Reading Nomad.

            From what I can see, you think you are disagreeing with ga gamba, when you are actually making his point for him. ga gamba is saying that clamoring for equality as the be-all-end-all, without considering other factors and secondary/tertiary effects of equalizing policies, is a simple-minded and mistaken approach. He then shows how valuing a low Gini co-efficient over all else doesn’t get you where you want to be, e.g. Kazakhstan (shout out to GGG). You go on to say that his comparisons were faulty because they didn’t weigh other factors… which was exactly his point. Systems that provide sufficient incentive for people to take the risks that generate wealth will inevitably have greater inequality.

            “How rich the economy and its state of development matters. This is why it is better asking:

            Is quality of life better in Sweden or USA.”

            If you meant that only developed countries should be compared to one another, why not also consider factors like population size and ethnic/cultural demographics? It’s by no means obvious that comparing Sweden and the USA on the narrow basis you proposed is useful or revealing.

          • “Writing with a self-congratulatory tone”

            Projection. You have got a bit between your teeth… and you are trying to be condescending to earn more merit.

            – –

            “Writing with a self-congratulatory tone”

            Why are you so bothered?

            – –

            ” ga gamba is saying that clamoring for equality as the be-all-end-all”

            Yes. But that isn’t the point. No one thinks this one measurement is be “the be-all-end-all”. No one. Rather what and how does this measurement shows us something relevant.

            – –

            “You go on to say that his comparisons were faulty because they didn’t weigh other factors… which was exactly his point.”

            Not really. Please read my comments again. But I will try to spell it out for you:

            You can compare like for like countries on the basis on being a developed or developing economy. If you take just that into account then this number, this measurement becomes useful and relevant. And then all the other factors become very relevant too because of it. It’s only when developed vs developed and vice versa are compared against each other than you can decide about “quality of life”.

            For example USA and Sweden, both developed economies, have some very important differences and approaches. If these two countries are compared then this measurement becomes relevant. Sweden’s approach leads to lower inequality but at costs – high taxes are geared towards providing better care for those at the bottom. USA is geared more towards business and wealth.

            Mr Gamba on the other hand tries to dismiss this completely [as you have so helpfully pointed out] by comparing two incomparable countries. Which is poor logic. But if you go my way – then this measurement does begin to become relevant.

            – –

            “If you meant that only developed countries should be compared to one another”

            Ditto! And developing countries against each other.

            “why not also consider factors like population size and ethnic/cultural demographics? ”

            Irrelevant.

            ” It’s by no means obvious that comparing Sweden and the USA on the narrow basis you proposed is useful or revealing.”

            Yes it is. Because then you take the different approaches these two countries take and why and how they affect inequality.

            Consider their stance on Taxes. And this is a start….

            – –

            Hopefully my tone in this explanation was sufficiently self-congratulatory for your exquisite tastes.

          • ga gamba says

            Again, you’re wrong in this context. The equality activists have set the rules of the game by using income inequality as the measure of fairness and justice – this is measured by Gini. I’m simply playing the hand they’ve dealt.

            Personally I think it’s a stupid way to evaluate the quality of life because I’m pretty sure less equal Canada offers a better quality of life than more equal Cambodia. But activists tend to favour slogans that fit on bumper stickers and placards then in-depth analysis.

            I’ve been to India several times and lived there once 8 months for work, so I prefer India due to its cuisine, the sights and frights, the train system, thieving cows, the scrum in the ticket queues, and Gulmarg’s skiing. I even enjoy the flying carpet salesmen who pester people on the pavement; it’s not that I like being bothered, it’s that I like walking them into trees and walls because they’re not paying attention whilst walking. Things I disliked were urban traffic and the undercurrent of imminent violence such as the antics by Brahmins protesting against reservations for scheduled castes and tribes.

            Given a choice, I’ll choose Nepal. Actually, I’d choose Bhutan but it’s almost impossible for foreigners to live there.

          • “The equality activists have set the rules of the game by using income inequality as the measure of fairness”

            I am not interested in ideological biases. But even so, I disagree. You cannot compare developing and developed countries in this way. It makes no sense. I doubt even they go around comparing such unlike countries.

            It is well worth considering differences between Nordic states and USA using inequality. As this does show us something relevant and well worth looking at. Likewise it worth comparing different approaches taken by say China and India to solve their problems.

            Looking at inequality in quantitative terms in this way has some relevancy and uses.

            – –

            “I’m pretty sure less equal Canada offers a better quality of life than more equal Cambodia.”

            Yes. But as you have already highlighted, it is pointless to compare them on this basis. We are just going over old ground here.

            However, you seem reluctant to discuss comparing developed or developing countries to each other. Because then one can use this measurement in much more meaningful way.

    • TarsTarkas says

      The Gini coefficient should NOT be used to measure wealth inequality (as if that were a bad thing, considering human beings aren’t identical clones) because it was specifically invented to justify increased government intervention in the marketplace. Technically the Soviet Union, China under Mao, Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge using their cooked-up official statistics probably had Gini coefficients close to zero, but when you actually observe reality, they were much closer to one, because effectively the tyrants in charge controlled all wealth. Just another case of lies, damn lies, and statistics.

      • Cheester says

        Reading Nomad:

        —“why not also consider factors like population size and ethnic/cultural demographics? ”

        Irrelevant.—

        Interesting approach, once again. Although I can see the appeal of thinking and writing like this, I wonder how persuasive you would find your approach if you were on the receiving end of it.

        Population size, geography, and demographics are perfectly relevant factors to consider when shaping economic policy. If you have a massive underclass of poorly educated people that barely pay into the system, the size of that group matters. Not to mention the situation with illegal immigration, which produces a large number of people who do not pay at all into the social safety nets that they benefit from. Then you have to take culture into account, because everyone’s willingness to provide for each other to their own detriment is dependent on whether they feel like the ones receiving help have an intention not just to benefit from the safety net, but one day no longer need it and eventually contribute to it. Do you really want to give 50-60% of your income to people who do not value education, thrift, work ethic, and family the way you do? It makes sense to invest in the common good to the extent that you feel like there is a common good. Living in a small, ethnically and culturally homogenous country helps a lot with that. It is virtually impossible to feel that way in the US. Maybe no one is taking up your challenge to simply group countries as “developed” or “undeveloped” because it is hardly more sophisticated than solely using the Gini co-efficient.

    • Chester Draws says

      Austerity policies are not a solely capitalist feature.

      Cuba has austerity policies more often than the USA (they have to stay in their means, they can’t expand money the same way). Generally Communist states are far more austere than their alternatives, in every sense of that word.

      So its really not relevant.

      • Are you for real? It is intensely relevant to a discussion of inequality in capitalist societies. We are told that everyone is getting richer, so why are some people being deliberately pushed into poverty?

        • Sam says

          The state is running out of other people’s money. The state spending money to buy votes was the deliberate part, austerity is the natural consequence. Since most of the states I presume you are referring to have little defense spending the only other thing that can be cut is entitlements.

          It’s only tangentially relevant to the discussion since, as Sr. Draws pointed out, it occurs in capitalist countries as well as communist, and therefore is not much of a variable (here meaning an element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change).

  8. Kessler says

    I’ve read, that historically, the only two things to strongly change wealth inequality are war and plague. I think politically it’s pretty much impossible to achieve reduction in inequality – politicians, who promise change, deliver nothing once elected and when they try the policies never achieve intended results. Maybe there can be a cultural answer – voluntary wealth redistribution, like Bill Gates donating his fortunes. But that would require functional and reasonable Left, that can leverage cultural power into helping the poor. The current USA Left is in my opinion incapable of that.

    • Try looking up the countries that are most unequal and how they work. I don’t think USA has the stomach for such a system.

  9. “Efficient private investment…”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    As if that ever worked. Whereever infrastructure is given into private hands
    it is worn down until public pressure becomes unbearable. Then stuff is bought
    back and fixed with tax money. This is just a joke.

    Essential infrastructure does not belong into private hands. Infrastructure is
    not a market. There are always parts of the country which need support, because
    they are economically weak. Or only thinly populated. Still there should be
    communication access. And streets. And a hospital. And water supply. How do
    you run that with a private company? And note: that does not mean that things
    should be done no matter what.

    Same goes for the responsibilities of public administration. There cannot be
    private prisons or the like. This cannot be delegated.

    “comes at no cost to the state”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    • Shenme Shihou says

      Are you American? Most American hospitals are private and most American prisons are public.

      • ga gamba says

        Not only are most American hospitals private, about 60% of them are non-profit too.

        Kind of boogles the minds what the US pays for healthcare when the majority of them are non-profit. And they don’t pay tax.

    • ccscientist says

      Leaving aside highways as “infrastructure” which should be public, the critical point is that when government runs things it is inefficient. The motivation for the employees is not there to do things well since they can’t be fired and have no way to profit either if they do a good job. Business isn’t omniscient, but the market eliminates businesses that screw up. There is constant pressure on a business to do things more efficiently and that please customers more. Government departments whose purpose is gone rarely go away.
      Oh, and there are in fact lots of private prisons–not an ideal case I grant you.

  10. MCA says

    I think part of tne problem in the US is that money brings a tremendous degree of political power, especially as campaign finance laws have been gutted. The rich aren’t just rich, they’re also the ones whose voices get heard by politicians, almost to the exclusion of everyone else. With both parties dependent upon donations from different sets of dueling wealthy ideologies, there’s not really much choice in voting.

    Another key issue that’s often glossed over, including here, is spatial heterogeneity of economic gains and losses. A trade deal which results in greater job creation than loss, but where the creation is diffuse and the losses are concentrated in a few areas, will have a very different outcome than one where bith are diffuse. Concentrated job losses can create downward spirals that turn formerly vibrant communities into ghost towns. If in doubt, consider the reverse – programs in which tax money from across the nation (diffuse loss) are channeled into jobs and investment in a single region (concentrated benefit) are derided as “pork barrel spending” and viewed as quasi-corruption. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just that it explains a lot of the opposition to free trade.

  11. Caligula says

    The assumption behind inequality rhetoric seems to be that I am somehow made poorer if my neighbor replaces and old but serviceable vehicle with a new luxury vehicle and displays this vehicle in a driveway next to mine. Even though nothing in what I have has actually changed.

    At an extreme, just knowing that some billionaire lives in a mansion somewhere somehow makes me poorer Tather like the old joke that a Puritan is someone obsessed by the realization that someone, somewhere is having fun, the inequality demogogues claim to be oppressed by the mere knowledge that others have far more than they do.

    An alternate PoV might emphasize a world in which practically everyone was able to secure a materially adequate existence, yet this obviously could never satisfy those beating on the ir inequality drums.

    Is it really necessary to point out that envy is an ugly emotion and leads to ugly behaviors, or that there will always be people who are richer, more talented, and better looking than you and that perhaps the path to life satisfaction lies not in obsessing over what they have which you lack?

    “THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal,” said Kurt Vonnegut in his short story “Harry Bergeron.” I don’t think he intended it to portray a utopia.

    https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

    • ccscientist says

      Yes, exactly. We rate ourselves compared to others. But that does not mean that the rich got rich by stealing from others, as Bernie and others imply. To take one example, Steve Jobs got rich by giving people what they wanted. People line up outside Apple stores for the latest thing. Do they look exploited to you? Oppressed? People would not give up their iPhones for anything. Even Rockefeller, the devil to the Left, kept lowering prices. The only people he hurt were his competitors.

  12. “On the contrary, over the proceeding decade, the percentage of U.S. households making under $75,000 (inflation-adjusted) fell by 11.5 percent. In other words, 11.5 percent more US households receive $75,000 or more in annual income.”

    This is not accurate, based on the linked paper. The paper explains that it was an 11.5 percentage-point shift. That means “the percentage…fell by 11.5 points,” not “percent,” (it would be about a 14% decrease) and also that about 58% more US households now make $75k or more (i.e., a change from 19% to 30% of households making $75k is a 58% increase).

    • ga gamba says

      Great comment, Nicole.

      When are article mentions a movement by one segment of the population and none of the others are mentioned we have to wonder what else is going on.

      Another trick used (not is this article) is to select a point in time when the minimum wage was worth the most in current dollars – I recall it’s ’64 or ’65. “Look how far US workers have fallen!” proclaim the newspapers, activists, and politicians. Yet, you can pick different years and find in many points of the past the minimum wage was lower in present dollars than the current minimum wage. You’ll never see this headline: “Look how much more US workers are getting paid!”

  13. Income inequality is a feature, not a bug of capitalism. People need to look at what they can accomplish not what other people are accomplishing. I live a comfortable middle class lifestyle I worked my butt off to obtain. It doesn’t bother me one whit there are millions of people with incomes and net worths many times mine. They also worked hard and are likely smarter and/or more talented then I am.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Inequality (not just of wealth) is a feature of homo sapiens. A feature of life, actually. Without competition, without striving for more that one already has (be it money, possessions, mates, access to grubs) there is no point to existence.

  14. ccscientist says

    Under the feudal system, people were locked into jobs. A farmer was tied to the land for example and could not leave it. People who peddle inequality as a problem have a medieval view of the world, that poor people are an indivisible lump, that if you are part of a poor group you always stay poor. This is simply not true.

  15. Some level of inequality is inevitable. Even a ‘pure’ exchange system (without even a structured market) will tend to increase inequality to fairly high levels just by random action (you can build these models yourself and see Poisson-like wealth distribution emerge.) Those are emphatically not real-world models, but illustrate the point. More complex models recapitulate this behavior with variation.

    Economists will point this out and people will reply with one of a number of comments, usually “Well, of course economists say that, they are all arch-conservatives,” or, “See, inequality is natural; learn to compete,” or perhaps, “See, this is why we need to implement that will free us from the tyranny of .”

    See many of the comments here. I suspect all are wrong.

    The libertarian response along the lines of, “Inequality is natural, suck it up, that’s what you get for an English degree,” is BS. Gross inequality tears societies –or, for the Thacherites who somehow seem to still be creaking along here, polities– apart. And then where’s your wealth? And that’s not “unfair.” Some level of redistribution, some increasingly steep redistribution, is needed for social stability. And that is just how humans are wired. Deal with it.

    The hodge-podge of (usually) leftist (or leftish) folks who hold economics in disdain have some things they can point to. But the fact is that across the world, pre-capitalism, capitalist, hybrid-socialist, feudal, etc. a pattern of wealth (and power) concentration has repeated itself again and again. It may be that there is some conspiracy a la Marx or Infowars that is doing this. Or it’s that inequity generation is just a property of exchange systems. But then again, you know, we can’t know for sure it’s not ancient multinational corporate Illuminati lizard-people.

    And the others: you’re systems all look like monetary systems with hybrid capitalist economies, so please try harder. (That is actually said with some sincerity. Or maybe people’s inability to conceive of anything that doesn’t, on serious review, look awfully similar to what we have now is telling us something.)

    I dunno, maybe there is magic pill out there. I doubt it. We’re probably stuck with a capitalist system, floating currencies, and more or less socialist/welfare/redistribution pieces strapped on. I think that solution, though probably as good as it gets in the real world, is so ugly that no one will ever be happy with it: there are just too many purists (libertarian/liberal, socialists, “anti-capitalists,” etc.)

    And even if everyone bought into it being as good as it gets, there are so many dials to adjust: how steep a tax curve (or a flat tax); consumption vs wealth vs income vs “unearned income” vs inheritance vs…; welfare vs negative taxes vs “benefits” vs … And even in those things people seem to argue in purist terms: what is “the” “right” thing to tax.

    Surprisingly, given all that, I don’t have a definitive solution.

    • DBruce says

      You ignore the massive subsidy paid by labour and capital to landowners via the tax system.

    • Bill says

      What is being ignored is personal choice. Individuals have different degrees of risk aversion. If you took a population and made them equal financially and fiscally, within a relatively short span there would be inequality. The risk averse, living within budget, do things like stay out of long term debt and wind up with nice vacations and long term stability while the the non-risk averse have more fun in the now, go into long-term debt, and then over time end up worse off.

      I met an interesting man in his 70s, He began his life poor, made a fortune, lost it, made it again, lost it, and was on his 3rd (I was renting his house in the Bahamas). The choices he made, I would have NEVER accepted the risk for but he had no issue or qualm risking it all on the throw of the dice because he knew he could survive “poor” and rebuild where I am unwilling to live in that stress. We both started out similarly, but we had different objectives and made different fiscal decisions as a result.

      That is why the socialist push for equality is a scam and ultimately causes chaos in society. For a subset, willing to live at the low level “gifted” by the government it’s great! For those accustomed to living at a higher standard they fight and resist the push down. You will never elevate the “poor” into the middleclass. Redistribution may temporarily give the facade of “full middle-class” but it would either rapidly devolve back to stratified groups or every ends up poor due to inflation..

      • DBruce says

        Under our current tax system landowners effectively claw back their taxes through land value gains, whilst non land owners – renters – effectively pay their taxes twice because their rents rise as land values rise.
        In other words, we have a structural trickle up of wealth from the poor to landowners.
        Fixing this is NOT redistribution, it is the abolition of an unearned state granted privilege.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZkfmY1PMng

      • chowderhead says

        My wife and I are risk-averse, frugal, have no debt and are professionals earning decent wages for our region of the country we live in. Friends of ours are in slightly better shape and are currently dealing with a bladder cancer diagnosis. They’ve shared some information regarding the cost of the various treatments; costs which have postponed talks of one spouse’s retirement.

        If my wife and I were facing the same costs, we’d be ruined: good bye everything we’ve worked to save; 403b, HSA, personal savings – everything. If I’m faced with the decision to treat a cancer diagnosis at the cost of ruining my family’s financial standing, I’ll take suffering and death instead. So the outcome of a cancer diagnosis for me today is exactly the same as it would have been in 1970 – I’ll die. But in 2018, it’s not because there is no treatment available, it’s because the available treatment can’t be afforded. This even though I make good money and live what you seem to think is a financially virtuous life.

        That looks like no progress to me.

        The lack of empathy and hubris displayed by the author and many commenters is disturbing. Wealth isn’t just having a color TV or a marginally working refrigerator, it’s also having some security, which is what makes Sander’s message so compelling. I challenge any of you to claim to never having made a reckless financial decision (look in your garage), so expecting everyone to sail through life without tripping themselves is hypocritical. The simple fact is that self-induced or not, too many Americans can’t recover from a financial fall of any magnitude, they’re down for the count.

        • DBruce says

          chowderhead, the self-destruction of the left has given the right a bit of a free pass on issues like inequality. I’m a keen Georgist – I believe, like the left, that there is structural inequality, but it is not caused by what the left says causes it (capitalism) it is caused by the state, specifically, the structure of the tax system.

        • augustine says

          Mr. chowderhead,

          You state your case with heart but it sounds like reflexive bleeding heart liberalism all the same. I don’t mean that pejoratively.

          For better or worse, empathy and compassion are at least as unequally distributed as wealth. I don’t know if that is “fair” or “unfair” because everyone has a different disposition or temperament, experience, etc. No systematized program of our own creation can do much about this and, as many have observed, the more we meddle in human affairs at this apparently cosmological level, the more destruction and suffering result. When these efforts form a repeating pattern (e.g., socialism), it doesn’t look like empathy. It looks like a violent power grab disguised as caring.

          If we have a right to “some security” then we have a right to lose that security the next day if we choose. And if we did *not* choose that loss then we deserve (it is not a right) compassion from our family and friends, and, yes, from society in general. If we were to take this view and amplify it beyond good intentions, by helpful acts in the real world, a great deal more could be done to help individuals in need, and their families and communities, than any government-sponsored schemes ever could. Note that this potential is never limited by tax revenue or political accord. It is an ancient rite that has been degraded by our atomization and other aspects of modernity.

          The way to help alleviate the suffering of others and buffer against life’s unfairness is at the level of individual actions and interactions, not at the programatic level. The government maintains dams, roads, military, emergency services and too many other things, but social infrastructure is up to us. The inclinations and actions of people– not of the government– are the barometer of the health of a society.

  16. This site is turning reactionary fast, first supporting regime change in Iran, now this.

  17. DBruce says

    Who’s afraid of Henry George? The Left is, the Right is.
    Why? Because Geofiscal reform gives them both what they (say they) want.
    And we wouldn’t want that would we.

  18. Al Smith says

    The Left is inconsistent and argues in bad faith when it comes to inequality. They claim inequality causes poverty when poverty was/is the default state of Hunter Gatherers, the most equal and egalitarian social grouping. They are say they want better societies and point to Scandinavia, yet the Scandinavian countries perform worse than Singapore does, despite having far higher taxes and spending far more GDP on government spending. Where are the leftists clamoring for the US to emulate Singapore? Oh right, Singapore has low taxes and high income inequality, so forget it. The left loves Scandinavia because it wants to tax the rich and make the state more powerful, not because it wants to make people better off, that’s just a ruse, a fig leaf.

  19. Al Smith says

    Inequality does not tear societies, extreme tribalism, conflict among elites, etc does. Russia in 1917 had among the lowest levels of inequality in Europe, the UK had the highest. Which country fell apart? Redistribution is not essential for social stability, cultural values are what enable social stability. Its not a coincidence that the West’s problems are cultural in origin, not political or economic.

    • TarsTarkas says

      One reason for the different outcomes, Russia had been defeated in war and partially occupied (including much of the industrial infrastructure), the UK was not.

      Redistribution CAUSES social instability, because it is fallible human beings doing the redistributing, based on their prejudices and beliefs. Most social re-engineers have the same basic personality flaw; they believe they are right, the science is settled, and if the outcome is not what they predict it was the implementation that was at fault, and they’ll do a better job next time.

  20. Robert Hogg says

    Unless Mr Killoran is himself an economist – and he doesn’t say he is in his one line bio – the only authority he cites in this article is a cognitive psychologist. This article would have more credibility if it relied on appropriately qualified sources, both economists who favour free trade and neo-liberal economic and those who don’t. One wonders about the editorial standards of this site.

  21. Atahualpa Quiroga says

    Oh blah blah blah. Savage Income inequality = “not so bad.” Demagoguery about income inequality = “horrible, the worst, the pits.”

  22. The Ulcer says

    Bernie Sanders used income inequality as his emotional talking point in order to get electoral support. Trump used nationalism. Hillary referred to her experience. Every political candidate uses whatever they think will get them elected, and I don’t think any of their statements should be entirely trusted.

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