Income Inequality

The absurdity of fighting “income inequality” is that there is no such thing as reasonable inequality. People complain that income inequality is on the rise, that it’s grown far too high, but they never explain what they wish it to be. What is their preferred level of income inequality? By what criteria is income inequality judged too high or too low, and by what criteria would it be judged adequate?

The answer is obvious: there is no such criteria, and nor can there ever be one. Either you fight for absolute equality of income, in which case you have to take the stance that everyone not only has equal rights, but are also equal in ability, intelligence and effort and thus deserve equal compensation (or even that they deserve equal compensation despite the difference in their work), or you ignore the concept of “income inequality” altogether since there is no objective or moral foundation on which to base the hypothetical level of “reasonable inequality”.

The concept of “income inequality” exists as a way for politicians to channel the negative energy that the public feels towards unearned wealth. The concept itself is primitive and false, but the underlying energy and discontent that people feel is real. The problem, however, lies not in inequality, but in abuse of power, looting and scheming of a certain portion of the population in the higher strata of society.

People don’t complain about high salaries of sports players because in professional sports there is no room for unearned wealth. You either perform, or you don’t. You cannot pretend to be a good sportsman because your ability and your effort is exposed for everyone to see. People might say that the salaries are disproportionate for the sort of work some sportsmen do, but they can never say that that salary is unearned. In this way, even if the salary may be considered disproportionate, there is little complaint against it.

On contrast, a lot of businesses are black boxes. CEOs and bankers get paid millions of dollars, yet the work that they do to earn that money remains unseen, whether by the general logistics of the industry or by intent. Without knowing what goes on behind the scenes, people see managers in high positions and their huge salaries and begin to question the earnestness of their work. When there is no way to clearly separate the earned from the unearned, the negative energy is projected onto industries and classes as uniform entities – e.g. “the bankers” and “the rich”.

Undoubtedly a lot of this money is made by dishonest means, but by talking about an industry or a segment of the population as a single entity that shares the same characteristics, you end up placing the very creators of wealth next to the takers, bundling the inventors and entrepreneurs of our society together with the schemers and parasites. This vilification of the productive individuals in our society is not only immoral, it is extremely harmful because by talking about “the rich” or “the bankers” as a single class you hide the parasites within the ranks of the creators. You insult the one while obfuscating the other.

Instead of “income inequality” the conversation should be about earned versus unearned wealth, about separating money that has been made by honest and productive means from money that has been taken by shameless profiteers. Once the separation is clear, once the productive individual is placed aside from the leech, you can begin to see the great wealth of the former as a real achievement, as something worthy of respect, celebration, admiration and inspiration, while the money of the latter would be revealed as the shameful plunder of the parasite.

March 2013