You cannot listen to a news broadcast or open a newspaper without hearing, watching or reading about that mortal sin “inequality” or it’s more sinister partner “income inequality”.
Politicians love using it, the media cannot resist hammering us with it.
It is designed to induce feelings of guilt amongst the successful and more so those who are both wealthy and successful.
It has been elevated to the heights of manipulation by a superbly orchestrated propaganda machine. Sponsored by liberal politicians, media and celebrities (many of whom are extremely wealthy). It is right up there with or beyond, “oil sands”, “Keystone Pipeline”, or “apartheid” in its capacity to stir the emotions.
There is one problem with it.
Income inequality (and many other inequalities) will always be with us.
They have to be, it is a fundamental rule of nature and life.
Our politicians, media and bleeding heart social commentators are using the wrong term.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “inequality” as
The quality of being unequal. Lack of equality. Difference or variation in size, amount, rank, quality, social position, etc.
It’s important to consider the same dictionary’s definition of “equality”:
State or instance of being equal.
Both terms are absolute, not relative. Two or more conditions, values, amounts, are either equal or they are not equal. Similar to the condition of pregnancy, a female is either pregnant or not.
Income equality could only exist under a perfect communist system where every person received an equal income regardless of contribution to the source of that income.
That did not happen in the former USSR, the communist states of Eastern Europe and is certainly not happening in North Korea, Cuba or China. In all those examples, the politically advantaged did and do receive far greater incomes (in different forms) than the masses.
The correct term is “Income Disparity”. A condition that has existed since the first evidence of life on the planet. A stronger, more active, more adaptable and more motivated member of any species will tend to be more successful, acquiring more and better resources. This allows it to attract and keep better mates and produce offspring with a better chance of survival and continuation of the species.
Although more accurate, the word disparity does not carry the same emotional, guilt inducing weight as does inequality, perhaps because of the intense emotion generated by reference in the past to racial and sexual inequality.
That is why the proponents of wealth distribution both in government and the media, continually portray income inequality as a mortal sin instead of a natural condition.
In modern society, only the most rabid communist would expect that a top-level executive responsible for creating and securing thousands of jobs, or the leader of a country, should receive the same income as someone who cannot or will not work at all.
Those comfortably off middle class who complain about the millions paid to CEOs and call for caps on bonuses should be careful what they wish for. Where salary caps and wage controls have been tried, they tended to suffer from “downward bracket creep”.
When those at the middle and lower-income levels, the very people who have been calling for controls, suddenly see their own incomes capped or reduced, they quickly lose their appetite for the policy.
It’s also worth remembering, that those at the lower end of the income scale in the first world are seen as fabulously rich by millions in the developing world.
An unemployed Zimbabwean with a life expectancy of 36 and no prospect of either employment or welfare thanks to disastrous government policies, is not going to have much sympathy for an American or European struggling to survive on $40 000 a year.
We should be concerned about income disparity. Real or perceived disparity in wealth, incomes, living conditions, access to resources are the sparks that ignite revolutions.
The way to address income disparity is to encourage, inspire and push those at the lower end of the scale to rise up it. Not drag those at the top down to their level through punitive taxation, legislation or politically expedient propaganda.
Let shareholders decide on executive and management income packages, not politicians, the media or celebrities.