"Too Good to Be True" Applies to Politics

Monday, April 09, 2018

Although the British press is often good for finding news about American politics that goes underreported here, it also leaves a lot to be desired. A case in point is an article in the Guardian that speaks of income inequality as if it is an inherently bad thing:

Taking this is all some people are able to think of when they learn that someone has more of it than someone else. (Image via Pixabay.)
Since 2008, the wealth of the richest 1% has been growing at an average of 6% a year -- much faster than the 3% growth in wealth of the remaining 99% of the world's population. Should that continue, the top 1% would hold wealth equating to $305tn (£216.5tn) -- up from $140tn today.

Analysts suggest wealth has become concentrated at the top because of recent income inequality, higher rates of saving among the wealthy, and the accumulation of assets. The wealthy also invested a large amount of equity in businesses, stocks and other financial assets, which have handed them disproportionate benefits.
And ... ?

Here we have the mental kill switch of altruism on full display. The only relevant datum appears to be that "the rich" have more money than the rest of us, the hell with how any of them did, whether any deserved to do so, or the fact that anyone in their shoes would do many of the same things, like saving or investing the dreaded ... gasp! ... assets. Consider something you might have bought from "the rich" -- say, for a clear example, an iPhone before its inventor Steve Jobs passed away. Is it wrong that they have your money in exchange for how much easier they have made your life? Jobs did this for countless others, and it is wrong to complain about his wealth, or to lump him into the same category as those who cheat or steal, including obtaining the wealth of others through government force.

A graphic has been making the rounds that illustrates this point exceptionally well. I haven't read Steve Conover's Neutering the National Debt, but his graphic is quite eloquent in this regard: Simply placing "the rich" in the political crosshairs is as unjust as it is simple-minded. If there is a "one percent" that deserves our opprobrium, the wealthiest one percent are not it, and it isn't necessarily straightforward to figure out who the enemy of prosperity is. As Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, authors of Equal Is Unfair, once put it:
Yes, it can sometimes be hard to tell the producers from the looters. As government becomes more entangled in our economic affairs, even the Reardens of the world are forced to lobby Washington -- not to reap unearned rewards, but to protect themselves from the Boyles. (It's no accident that before Microsoft came under antitrust fire, it spent virtually nothing on lobbyists, while today it spends many millions.) What's more, many businessmen are mixed cases -- part producer, part political profiteer.
Most people have little difficulty evaluating an offer made to them personally that seems "too good to be true." But when that offer is made in a way to appeal to common and mistaken notions of morality (and using the government as a fence for the stolen goods), it's deuces wild. In a way, it would be great if solving all the world's problems came down to robbing only one percent of the population. But it's not only not so simple: It is unjust to the likes of Steve Jobs, and it is wrong and self-destructive to steal, to condone theft, or to portray it as an ideal.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected a typo. 


SteveD said...

'the 3% growth in wealth of the remaining 99% of the world's population.'

Wow, that sounds like something to celebrate to me! If the trend continues, someday poverty will be virtually eliminated.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for pointing that out.

That's truly good news, but leave it to the envious to make it easy to miss.