Arthur C. Brooks argues quite trenchantly that what America needs is mobility and opportunity, not equalization of income.
those left behind, itâ€™s important to note, will almost certainly not become happier if we redistribute more income. Indeed, they will probably become less happy. Policies designed to lower economic inequality tend to change the incentives of both the haves and the have-nots in a way that particularly harms the have-nots. Reductions in the incentives to prosper mean fewer jobs created, less economic growth, less in tax revenues, and less charitable givingâ€”all to the detriment of those left behind. And redistribution can, as the American welfare system has shown, turn beneficiaries into demoralized long-term dependents. …
policies to redress economic inequality hardly affect true inequality at all. Policymakers and economists rarely denounce the scandal of inequality in work effort, creativity, talent, or enthusiasm. …
Finally, arguments against inequality legitimize envy. Americans may indeed have strong concerns about their relative incomes and may seek status as reflected in their economic circumstances. But to base our policies on the anxieties of those at the back of the status race is to bow before Invidia. A deadly sin is not, in my view, a smart blueprint for policymaking.
A more accurate vision of America sees a land of both inequality and opportunity, in which hard work and perseverance are the keys to jumping from the ranks of the have-nots to those of the haves. If we can solve problems of absolute deprivation, such as hunger and homelessness, then rewarding hard work will continue to serve as a positive stimulant to achievement. Redistribution and taxation, beyond whatâ€™s necessary to pay for key services, weaken Americaâ€™s willingness and ability to thrive.
This vision promotes policies focused not on wiping out economic inequality, but rather on enhancing economic mobility. They include improving educational opportunities, aggressively addressing cultural impediments to success, enhancing the fluidity of labor markets, searching for ways to include all citizens in Americaâ€™s investing revolution, and protecting the climate of American entrepreneurship.
Placidity about income inequality, and opposition to income redistribution, are evidence of a light heart, not a hard one. If happiness is our goal, those who promote opportunity over economic equality have no apologies to make.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.