In today’s New York Times column on inequality, Tyler Cowen makes the reasonable point that equality per se should not be a policy objective:
The broader philosophical question is why we should worry about inequality — of any kind — much at all. Life is not a race against fellow human beings, and we should discourage people from treating it as such. Many of the rich have made the mistake of viewing their lives as a game of relative status. So why should economists promote this same zero-sum worldview? Yes, there are corporate scandals, but it remains the case that most American wealth today is produced rather than taken from other people. What matters most is how well people are doing in absolute terms.
To this, Steven Kyle response:
I can only say that it takes a white middle aged economics professor with tenure to come up with a statement like that. Maybe in Cowen’s world people don’t care if they work just as hard but get less money than others but in the real world it makes people distrustful of the system and causes them to lose faith in the fairness of society. General belief in the social contract is a long term asset to us all and one we should be very worried about losing. Only a very narrow view of the world could conclude otherwise.
This is what passes for critical reasoning among the egalitarian set?1:24 pm on January 25, 2007 Email Peter Klein