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Homosexuality and Income Inequality

In this popular YouTube video, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (aka: Borat) is in his gay fashonista character Bruno; Bruno is interviewing unsuspecting "gay converter" Pastor Quinn.  When Bruno asks the Pastor why homosexuality is wrong — "So why is being gay so out this season?" — Pastor Quinn responds: "because there are people who find homosexuality to be repugnant to them."

Bad reason.  Undoubtedly many people do find homosexuality to be "repugnant to them" — but why should we care about these sentiments?  It’s a big world with lots of people.  Inevitably, nearly every human activity, including many peaceful ones, will be repugnant to some people.  Some activities more than others, of course, but so what?  (Personally, it’s very unpleasant for me to imagine my parents having sex — "eewwww!" — but I don’t want to force them to sleep apart; I don’t even want them to stop having sex.)

Civilized persons immediately understand that what consenting adults to with each other is no one else’s business.  The fact that some people find other people’s peaceable activities to be repugnant, upsetting, immoral, unpleasant, odd, or whatever, is utterly irrelevant — or should be utterly irrelevant.  Person A’s attitude about peaceable person B’s actions is no justification for public policy aimed at saving person A from whatever disquiet he or she suffers as a result of person B’s activities.

Now I have no idea what Pastor Quinn really does.  If all he does is to offer his services to persons who come to him voluntarily, I have no real complaint (although I must say that I find it a tad bit repugnant).

Most self-described "liberals" and "progressives" would agree with all that I write above.  So why do these "liberals" and "progressives" believe that income inequality is worthy of the state’s attention?  No doubt, they find income inequality repugnant.  They don’t like it and they want to do all that they can to rid society of it — just as Pastor Quinn doesn’t like homosexuality and wants to do all that he can to rid society of it.

One reason might be that some of these "liberals" and "progressives" believe that wealth is a fixed stock; the more that Bill Gates has the less that persons living in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward have.  Whether or not this is true is a factual question.  But economics and history teach me that this fixed-stock-of-wealth view is robustly wrong.  In a market-oriented society (which the U.S. still is), the pattern of income "distribution" that emerges is merely the consequence of uncountable numbers of peaceful, consensual capitalist acts (affected, it is true, by tax policy — which takes more money from high-income earners than from low-income earners).

My sense is that most of the antagonism toward income inequality does not rest on the fixed-stock-of-wealth view.  My sense is that most of this antagonism is surprisingly like the antagonism that Pastor Quinn and his flock have toward homosexuality: they find it repugnant and, therefore, conclude that their own sentiments are sufficient reason to try to solve the alleged problem.

Bad reason.


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