Outcome Inequality

The Daily Caller is writing about “The Inequality Trap,” in the context of income inequality.  Indeed, TheDC points out the hypocrisy generally inherent in the plaints:

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, heads of state and billionaires from around the globe lamented the fact that some people are not as well off as they are, and called for government to do something about it. Then they went skiing.

And our favorite uncle Warren Buffet decries the premise that he pays less (income) tax than his secretary and wants government to raise his taxes—all the while declining to make donations to the Treasury and while doing everything legally within his and his accountants’ skill to reduce his own total tax bite.

Income or tax inequality, though, is just a small part of a larger item—inequality of outcomes generally.  The fact is, we can have equality of opportunity, as the principles statement of our social contract, or Declaration of Independence, promises us; or we can have equality of outcomes, as the Progressives today want us to have.  We can’t have both.

Not every individual has the same degree of talent, or capability, or work ethic of every other individual.  John Adams understood this:

Although, among men, all are subject by nature to equal laws of morality, and in society have a right to equal laws for their government, yet no two men are perfectly equal in person, property, understanding, activity, and virtue, or ever can be made so by any power less than that which created them.

Forcing equal outcomes, then, is nothing more than denial of a more successful man’s right to the fullness of his Liberty and Life by denying him the right to the fruits of his success, his right to achieve his fullest potential, and it holds him back for no other reason than that others have not kept up.  This also subsidizes the less successful so they have the same outcomes as the more successful independently of their own labors.  This government subsidy, then, usurps that individual’s right to make his own decisions and makes the government responsible for each individual’s welfare, eliminating that individual’s own responsibilities and obligations.

But restraining the more successful, or subsidizing the less successful, are the same thing: the more successful are denied full value for their work, their talent, and their skills.  In the first instance, the more successful are held back directly, with the full measure of their success denied them.  In the second, the more successful are denied the same extra return to their performance that is awarded the less successful through subsidy.  Here, for instance, is every child receiving a prize, independent of the outcome from his effort or skill or talent, and so both the self-esteem of the child who did not do well and that of the child who won the competition are damaged by not being able to reap a reward consistent with actual effort or reap the consequences of failure and the opportunity to learn from that—with its own concomitant return to self-esteem.  Each child functionally receives only a participation award.  Here, too, is the high school orchestra, having won a state-wide competition in one year denied by rule the opportunity to compete at all in the following year.  This punishment for success denies the successful orchestra the opportunity for further success, and it denies the newly “winning” orchestra the opportunity to show that it is truly the best by outperforming last year’s winner.  Here, too, is the man who worked hard, both at the particular endeavor and at acquiring the skills necessary for success in the endeavor, and who was able to bring his talent to bear, being forced to give up some portion of the results of his more successful effort to another who did not do as well.  This concept of equal outcomes punishes the successful for their success, and it denies the unsuccessful the opportunity to do better and to become successful in their own right.

Instead, under our social compact, each American has an equal opportunity to achieve his version of the American dream, to achieve the full potential of his own capabilities.  This necessarily produces unequal outcomes when measured merely by fiscal wealth or material possession.  However, this equal opportunity is a grand implementation of American rights and liberties, as it provides the greatest equality for the protections of each one’s existence, rights, freedoms, and social well-being.  This also produces the greatest moral strength.

Thomas Jefferson understood this, too:

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not, exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *