Intellectual (Dis)Honesty Part II

What are the parameters of a term that has recently been bandied about, namely, “addressing income inequality?”

As with many other areas, life is simple at the extremes. An uber-wealthy man walks down the street and sees fellow citizens starving; any sense of humanity dictates that he should give the starving people some food.

Obviously, when the government gets involved, we call it tax.

At the other extreme, if a person was required to divest himself/herself of wealth by sheer virtue of the fact that someone else had less, we would call it socialism.

It is the middle ground that might cause someone to scratch their head. To what degree do we want to address income inequality?

If the solution is giving the people earning less the ability to earn more, one would expect, and rightfully even demand, a comprehensive plan. That plan, however, would have to factor in personal issues like motivation, financial or time investment, delayed gratification, etc. not to mention intervening forces like globalization and offshore labor, as well as technology taking a bite out of unskilled labor employment.

I believe that any statement regarding addressing income inequality must be comprehensive, achievable and realistic if it is to be meaningful. Examples of a scattered approach to dealing with income inequality are the ACA, junior college for all, and seeking to raise taxation on capital gains. The issue is complex, and therefore, the solution deserves at least as much attention as the underlying issue.

On the other hand, if we are simply talking about taking from the rich and giving to the poor, which would essentially amount to 21st-century governmental Robin-Hoodism, I would at least expect to hear the degree to which this redistribution of wealth was appropriate in the aggregate, rather than hearing a sprinkling of willy-nilly ideas. Obviously, this approach would also need some type of economic plan, substantiating that the level of redistribution did not create a disincentive for people to make the investment and take the risks that generally precede their accumulation of wealth.

In either case, it would really be refreshing to take a lesson from GPS, where the first question asked when embarking on a journey is — what is your destination?

What do you think?

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