Income-Earning Man

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2010

in Inequality, Seen and Unseen

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Like Michael Smith, I don’t suffer from the “Progressive” itch for income equality (Letters, Aug. 3).  Not only does achievement of such “equality” require the state to treat people unequally, obsession with income equality also reflects a Scrooge-like fetish for money.

Consider a man who spends long hours at the gym.  He does so for the same reasons that another man spends long hours at work: to gain an advantage and a sense of achievement.  Are gym-man’s broad shoulders, bulging biceps, and ripped torso appropriate objects of envy by couch-potato man?  Is this envy a social problem demanding government action?  Should gym-man be scorned as greedy for working extra-hard to improve his physique – extra-hard work that likely wins gym-man disproportionate access to attractive mates?  Should government force gym-man to share his beautiful babes with couch-potato man?  Should gym-man’s muscles, or natural good looks, be taxed?

If we recognize that envy of other persons’ physiques is a sentiment deserving only ridicule, why do so many “Progressives” excuse – or even positively approve of – envy of other persons’ monetary assets?

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

Actually, of course, a person’s going to the gym is less beneficial for others than is that person spending time earning income in the market.  Working out and getting buff is closer to a zero-sum game than is profitably tranforming inputs into outputs for sale to consumers.

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