“The Inequality Bogeyman”

2 Feb

Thomas Sowell, the well-known black conservative economist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, had the words below to say about economic inequality.  The full column can be found at http://www.creators.com/opinion/thomas-sowell/the-inequality-bogeyman.html

Excerpt:   [Bracketed material is mine – so is the bolding]

. . . . [D]ifferences in capabilities are inescapable, and they make a big difference in what and how much we can contribute to each other’s economic and other well-being. If we all had the same capabilities and the same limitations, one individual’s limitations would be the same as the limitations of the entire human species.

We are lucky that we are so different, so that the capabilities of many other people can cover our limitations.

One of the problems with so many discussions of income and wealth is that the intelligentsia are so obsessed with the money that people receive that they give little or no attention to what causes money to be paid to them, in the first place.

. . . . From the standpoint of a society as a whole, money is just an artificial device to give us incentives to produce real things — goods and services.

Those goods and services are the real “wealth of nations,” as Adam Smith titled his treatise on economics in the 18th century.

[A few paragraphs follow about John D. Rockefeller, his contributions to U.S. economic growth and his resultant fortune, with shout-out to Edison, the Wright brothers, and Henry Ford.]

Too many discussions of large fortunes attribute them to “greed” — as if wanting a lot of money is enough to cause other people to hand it over to you. It is a childish idea, when you stop and think about it — but who stops and thinks these days?

Edison, Ford, the Wright brothers, and innumerable others also created unprecedented expansions of the lives of ordinary people. The individual fortunes represented a fraction of the wealth created. . . .

Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy “social justice” — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.

[End of excerpt]

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