Inequality in incomes and in accumulated material prosperity are the inevitable outcomes of our inalienable right to equality of opportunity, as exercised through our differing endowments of talents, skills, work ethic, and luck.
The well off—including those best off—use their gains from those inequalities in a variety of ways. Some of these ways are purely personal: luxuries and luxuries for their families. Some of those ways also include support for what are often termed, loosely, “the arts,” and other cultural supports and advancements. It is from these, and not from government, for instance, that support for museums of all sorts come, support for many artists originates, support for invention ideation and development begins.
These well off, also, serve as an example and a goad: I can do that. I want that stuff, too. And the efforts to emulate and/or to make oneself able to obtain those material symbols of “I’ve arrived” feed into the ideation/development/support cycle.
Of course this generates a steady supply of those less well off, a steady generation of poor. These folks see the prosperity—they’re not as stupid or as dead-end as Progressives make them out to be with the latters’ drumbeat of offers of welfare and dependency—and they do what they can to go where the success stories are, and then they do their best to achieve those same successes or something like them. In the absence of interference by governments [sic], they almost always succeed, almost always by their children’s generation if not of themselves directly. The Statue of Liberty stands as the quintessential beacon, inviting everyone, but especially inviting those seeking personal and familial betterment.
Our greatness, our exceptionalism, our status as a magnet for the world, though, is jeopardized when government gets in the way of our poor. Reread the preceding paragraphs. The thick cord that runs through them is the idea that our poor want to—and most importantly can—make themselves better off than they were. Our poor are fully capable of moving themselves up the economic ladder, fully capable of stopping being poor and becoming middle class, of leaving the middle class and entering upper classes, ultimately of reaching the top. If they cannot do that for themselves (although some do), they can create the conditions within which their children can (and most do), and those children can—and most do—create the conditions that enable their own children, the grandchildren of our first generation in these paragraphs, to move up still further.
But to do that, government must stay out of their way, or, today, get out of their way.
And so we’re back to income inequality. That inequality is what provides the motivation. And—hated concept of the Left—it trickles down from the top, too. As I alluded above, it’s the rich that provide the market for new things, for luxuries. These become desired by the middle class and poor and so while increased demand props up prices, increased production—and growing competition to produce in order to get some of that new market—outstrips demand, and prices fall—and the middle class and poor ultimately can afford what was exclusively the goodies of the rich. See air conditioning in houses, power steering and brakes in cars, televisions, telephones, and pocket computers that also run phone apps, and so on.
If, however, being successful is punished through government-mandated wealth redistribution, rather than that “redistribution” being the outcome of individual choices in a free market (where wealth is redistributed, simultaneously, in both directions, by every voluntary exchange leaving each participant in possession of things he wanted but did not have before the exchange) and individual choices in the means and objects of satisfying individual Judeo-Christian duties to help those less well off, then two things occur: the heretofore successful cease working so hard to be successful, and so the high end of wealth steadily lowers, except for those few who can find adequate favor from government. And the poor cease striving to better their own and their family’s lots, satisfying themselves with government handouts from other’s wealth; and so, from that dependence on those handouts, the low end of wealth also steadily lowers, and each one’s absolute “share” also steadily dwindles in size as the wealth from which those “shares” are confiscated steadily shrinks.
And that destroys both the capacity and the impetus for upward mobility.
The final outcome is a more subtle and general impoverishment, both materially and morally—the latter is especially insidious, as it is the moral that gives strength to the capacity for increasing the prosperity of all. The well-off lose their moral sense of helping others, both from malaise, as government confiscates their output, and from a surrender of their moral responsibility to that government, expecting instead that it will satisfy the imperative instead of them. The poor lose their capacity for responsibility for their own betterment, and so the drive to better themselves and their families in ways that best suit them, through their acceptance of their status as dependents of government.