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On Income Differences

Here’s a letter that I sent a few days ago to the New York Times:

Ross Douthat’s plausible explanation for why income inequality won’t decline any time soon (“Inequality as Usual,” Oct. 5) prompts this question: so what?

If some persons are robbed of their property or are unfairly blocked from pursuing economic opportunities, that’s wrong and should be stopped.  If some persons are so poor that they lack life’s barest necessities, they should be helped.  (How best to help them is a different issue.)  But neither of these problems has anything to do with income inequality.  We would want to correct these problems even if doing so would make the income distribution more unequal.

To worry about differences in earned incomes simply because some persons earn more than other persons is to wallow in envy.  And envy is, and ought to remain, a deadly sin rather than be fashioned into a livewire for energizing public policy.

Donald J. Boudreaux