Tag Archives: inequality

What Is Equality? [Insight from Thomas Sowell]

9 Jan

From the pen of Thomas Sowell, well-known black conservative economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.  Strongly excerpted here from a piece titled “The ‘Equality’ Racket”, posted at


[Start excerpt – brackets and bolding are mine]

. . . . [T]he predominant political meaning [of “equality”] in practice [is] where economic “disparities” and “gaps” are automatically treated as “inequities.” If one racial or ethnic group has a lower income than another, that is automatically called “discrimination” by many people in politics, the media and academia.

It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is that some groups work harder in school, perform better and spend more postgraduate years studying to acquire valuable skills in medicine, science or engineering. If the economic end results are unequal, that is treated as a grievance against those with better outcomes, and a sign of an “unfair” society.

The rhetoric of clever people often confuses the undeniable fact that life is unfair with the claim that a given institution or society is unfair.

Children born into families that raise them with love and with care to see that they acquire knowledge, values and discipline that will make them valuable members of society have far more chances of economic and other success in adulthood than children raised in families that lack these qualities.

Studies show that children whose parents have professional careers speak nearly twice as many words per hour to them as children with working class parents — and several times as many words per hour as children in families on welfare. There is no way that children from these different backgrounds are going to have equal chances of economic or other success in adulthood. 

. . . [S]ome people buy the idea that politicians can correct the unfairness of life by cracking down on employers.

But, by the time children raised in very different ways reach an employer, the damage has already been done.

What is a problem for children raised in families and communities that do not prepare them for productive lives can be a bonanza for politicians, lawyers and assorted social messiahs who are ready to lead fierce crusades, if the price is right. . . .. . . .

Equality before the law is a fundamental value in a decent society. But equality of treatment in no way guarantees equality of outcomes.

On the contrary, equality of treatment makes equality of outcomes unlikely, since virtually nobody is equal to somebody else in the whole range of skills and capabilities required in real life . . . .

What may be a spontaneous confusion among the public at large about the very different meanings of the word “equality” can be a carefully cultivated confusion by politicians, lawyers and others skilled in rhetoric, who can exploit that confusion for their own benefit.

Regardless of the actual causes of different capabilities and rewards in different individuals and groups, political crusades require a villain to attack — a villain far removed from the voter or the voter’s family or community. . . . The media and the intelligentsia are also attracted to crusades against the forces of evil.

But whether as a crusade or a racket, a confused conception of equality is a formula for never-ending strife that can tear a whole society apart — and has already done so in many countries.

[End Excerpt]


“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]

Simple Prescription for Eliminating “Poverty” in America

2 Feb

Mona Charen, one of my favorite columnists, recently wrote the following paragraphs about the poor and unemployed in a piece that can be found in full at http://www.creators.com/opinion/mona-charen/will-anyone-watch-tonights-speech-why.html

I think this is very well said – enjoy.  [I put “Poverty” in quotes in my title because I have serious concerns about how loosely we define poverty in this country — there are probably a few billion people in this world who would feel as though they were solidly in the middle class if they were as well off as most of the folks we have arbitrarily defined as “living in poverty”.]

Excerpt from Ms. Charen:

Most economists agree that increasing the minimum wage has a tendency to discourage hiring. Second, most people who earn minimum wage are not heads of households. Third, 80 percent are not poor. Fourth, most receive a raise within 12 months. Fifth, the states containing half the population already have minimum wages above the federal level.

What the soft shoe about income inequality and declining upward mobility is meant to disguise is that Obama has presided over an economy that is providing diminishing opportunities for work. People who work full time are almost never poor. The Current Population Survey of the Census Bureau found that among full-time workers, the poverty rate in 2013 was 2.9 percent. Most of those who are poor are not working at all or are working only part time.

Long-term unemployment is demoralizing for the jobless and expensive for taxpayers. Rather than attempt to set wages from Washington, Obama’s entire focus ought to be on removing obstacles to hiring. . . .

Obama will boast that he has a “pen and a phone.” He can use his pen to relax some of the job-depressing regulations his administration has imposed, particularly in the health, financial and energy sectors. He can use his phone to approve the Keystone pipeline. And he could use his influence to extol the essential habits of success, without which more and more Americans will fail to flourish. As the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported years ago, if Americans do three simple things, they will not be poor: 1) graduate from high school , 2) get a job and 3) wait until marriage to have their first child.

[End of excerpt]

Those Terrible, Uncaring Conservatives . . .

7 Jan

David Limbaugh, in his recent column titled “The Left’s Latest Mantra:  Income Inequality”, besides addressing the left’s unjustified claims to the high ground on income inequality, has this to say about the liberal world view in general.  I thought it was well stated.  The whole column can be read at


Excerpt:  [Emphasis is mine]

Whether or not liberals are able to process the reality that their programs have failed, they will not abandon them, because class warfare and government dependency programs are their ticket to power. CNN’s Candy Crowley unwittingly admitted as much when she asked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker why any unemployed American or minimum wage worker would become a Republican.

It’s not that conservatives don’t care about the poor. It’s that we do care about the poor — and everyone else. We believe that our free market solutions generate economic growth, stimulate upward mobility and improve the economic lives of far more people, including the poor and middle class, than any other system. History vindicates us.

The left will always win the “look at how much I care about you” contest. But it loses in the “actually caring” department because at some point, people have to be presumed to have intended the damaging results their policies have consistently caused.

[End of excerpt]

Differences between Income Groups Clarified

7 Jan

From PA Pundits – International

“It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson (1781)

Columnist John C. Goodman noted recently:

“In a study for the National Center for Policy Analysis, David Henderson found that there is a big difference between families in the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of the income distribution:

Families at the top tend to be married and both partners work. Families at the bottom often have only one adult in the household and that person either works part-time or not at all:

In 2006, a whopping 81.4 percent of families in the top income quintile had two or more people working, and only 2.2 percent had no one working. By contrast, only 12.6 percent of families in the bottom quintile had two or more people working; 39.2 percent had no one working. …

Having children without a husband tends to make you poor. Not working makes you even poorer. And there is nothing new about that. These are age old truths. They were true 50 years ago, a hundred years ago and even 1,000 year ago. Lifestyle choices have always mattered.”


I daresay, also, that people in the top 20% of the economic distribution also paid more attention to getting a solid education than those in the bottom 20%, and probably grew up in a two-parent family.  One could argue that they started with an advantage, but at some point we have to bury that excuse and start strongly emphasizing and focusing on family values and the importance of education among the bottom 20%.  I think this is the only way to improve the upward mobility of this group.

Affecting Outcomes through Education

18 Jan

Very interesting article by E.D. Hirsch on the statistical link between language proficiency and upward mobility.  I am duplicating the first three paragraphs here, but the full article can be found at http://www.city-journal.org/2013/23_1_vocabulary.html

Excerpt:   [Bolding is mine]

A Wealth of Words

A number of notable recent books, including Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality and Timothy Noah’s The Great Divergence, lay out in disheartening detail the growing inequality of income and opportunity in the United States, along with the decline of the middle class. The aristocracy of family so deplored by Jefferson seems upon us; the counter-aristocracy of merit that long defined America as the land of opportunity has receded.

These writers emphasize global, technological, and sociopolitical trends in their analyses. But we should factor in another cause of receding economic equality: the decline of educational opportunity. There’s a well-established correlation between a college degree and economic benefit. And for guidance on what helps students finish college and earn more income, we should consider the SAT, whose power to predict graduation rates is well documented. The way to score well on the SAT—at least on the verbal SAT—is to have a large vocabulary. As the eminent psychologist John Carroll once observed, the verbal SAT is essentially a vocabulary test.

So there’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income. The reason is clear: vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts. If we want to reduce economic inequality in America, a good place to start is the language-arts classroom.