Friday, 5 August 2016

The Answer To The So-Called 'Inequality' Problem Is Not More Equality

Today the Wall Street Journal has pointed us to lots of research to show why there is no empirical evidence for Thomas Piketty’s highly flawed inequality theory being correct. Naturally this blog's author doesn't find that in the least bit surprising - I wrote my own critique of Piketty's ideas in 2014, which also came to those same conclusions.

Often people's intentions are noble and their goals are good, but their ideas on how to achieve those things are defected with fantasy. With Piketty's notions of inequality, however, the intentions and goals aren't even that worthwhile either, because we don't much need more equality - what we actually need is more freedom.

One of the most significant cultural memes in our modern society is the egalitarian one that obsesses about making an unequal world artificially more equal. What we should strive to improve more than anything is not equality, it is freedom.

Those who place a higher premium on equality over freedom miss one of the most vital things about being human - that as well as our similarities in terms of human qualities, it is our differences that engender the variety of things that make us prosper. Consequently, if you artificially impede some freedoms for the purposes of greater equality you impede the diversity that drives people's striving for progress.

For it is precisely those different tastes and abilities that give exhibition to the choices we make in creating such a diverse society and a diverse economy. It is because of these vast differences that people co-operate in trade, and it is because of this collective co-operation that people are incentivised to strive for innovation.

Consequently, then, what people striving for greater income equality ought to be striving for is greater opportunity, because it is opportunity that engenders value, and it is value that increases absolute well-being. Life is about ideas, and putting those ideas into practice. This involves a continual trial and error process best enjoyed when freedom enables it.

One of the most oppressive things that can be demanded in society is when people try to make equal, things that are better off unequal. We are equal only to the extent that we are all uniquely different and better for it. The celebration of and striving for optimal diversity is the antidote against the medicine of fabricated equality.

And I say 'optimal diversity' precisely because although we can have too little equality, such as in cases where opportunity is needlessly limited for some groups, we can also have too much diversity, such as in cases where a departure from a desired uniformity is socially and individually damaging (see here and here for more on this).