Monday, April 9, 2012

Income Mobility Means Some People Have to Lose Everything

Like Ross Douthat, I've been following the recent blog conversation about income inequality and income mobility. I'm not going to summarize the arguments about how closely they're connected--you should read Ross's excellent post for a good overview. And I'm certainly not going to insert myself into an argument between two very smart economists who spend a lot of time studying this question. But I was struck by a very troubling thought while I was reading through these debates: only one of these problems matters, and it's the problem that we can't solve. No, strike that. I'm not sure whether the problem can be solved or not. What I am very sure of is that we do not want to solve it, and that for that reason, we are very probably not going to.

I've said before that I don't care about income inequality per se, and that focusing on it seems more like institutionalized envy than sound policy. I care about the absolute condition of the poor--do they have the basics of a decent life? And I care about whether income inequality itself produces some sort of structural advantage in the political system. (I'm skeptical). But I don't care whether Bill Gates lives in a giant robot house that cost eighteen-squintillion dollars. What I care about is whether some kid is growing up in a roach infested shack with no heat--something that has basically nothing to do with the size of Gates' fortune.

On the other hand, income mobility is a very important issue. Regardless of how far the top is from the bottom, children born in America should have an equal chance to move from the latter to the former. This is especially important given that so many of the highest-paid jobs are also the most pleasant. Read more.......

No comments:

Post a Comment

Everyone is encouraged to participate with civilized comments.