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Income-Earning Man

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Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Like Michael Smith, I don’t suffer from the “Progressive” itch for income equality (Letters [2], 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?

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.