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When Does Inequality Matter?

In this new release from Cato Unbound, one of my favorite philosophers, David Schmidtz, offers deep and intriguing thoughts on the question of inequality.

Although the entire essay is worth a careful read — indeed, it’s worth two or more careful reads — here’s my favorite paragraph:

In a race, equal opportunity matters. In a race, people need to start
on an equal footing. Why? Because a race’s purpose is to measure
relative performance. Measuring relative performance, though, is not a
society’s purpose. We form societies with the Joneses so that we may do
well, period, not so that we may do well relative to the Joneses. To do
well, period, people need a good footing, not an equal footing. No one
needs to win, so no one needs a fair chance to win. No one needs to
keep up with the Joneses, so no one needs a fair chance to keep up with
the Joneses. No one needs to put the Joneses in their place or to stop
them from pulling ahead. The Joneses are neighbors, not competitors.

Thanks to Will Wilkinson for the pointer.


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