Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I've been thinking about equality and inequality lately. The above graph (generated from CIA Factbook data and posted on Wikipedia) represents income disparity by country using the Gini Index from the last 50 years. The fact that income disparity has been rising and that we are on par with China disturbs me. Income begets wealth (usually) and wealth begets wealth which begets sick amounts of wealth forever.
This rising gap between rich and poor is not just a moral issue (although in my mind, this is the more important of the two arguments for greater equality), it's a stability issue. The greater the gap between rich and poor, the less stable a society you have. Now I understand that inequality is an incentive for the poor to work harder to become rich (and they will work exponentially harder than the rich do to stay rich), but if economic mobility is not a reality for the majority of people, which I believe it isn't, then you have a huge French Revolution-like stability problem.
But back to morality. Is it right for the poor, not just in our country, but in the world, to be stuck in this poverty trap? (And it is a trap. I've lived in Brooklyn. I've lived next to the Bronx. I've driven very quickly through terrible parts of Oakland. I've been to places in South Phoenix that I never should have gone to. There is little hope and the likelihood of someone escaping is extremely low. There is no such thing as a level playing field.)
It's not right. It's not just. It's not merciful. It's not charitable.