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Economic Growth and Income Differences

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

George Will wisely draws readers’ attention to Walter Blum’s and Harry Kalven’s pioneering 1953 essay “The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation” (“Government: The redistributionist behemoth,” Jan. 8).  Another scholar whose writings on income differences should be, but sadly aren’t, remembered today is the late University of Virginia economist G. Warren Nutter.

Nutter in 1974 offered the following observation that should temper the tempers of at least the more thoughtful Wall Street Occupiers and other people alarmed by income differences: “Progress did not, by and large, aggravate inequities, but it made us more aware and less tolerant of them.  Sharpening contrasts in circumstances aroused our humane sentiments, sentiments that could be better afforded by virtue of augmenting affluence.  Progress shook loose the age-old endurance that man had customarily displayed for his lot and bred in its place an attitude of insatiable discontent with the pace at which remaining problems were being met.  And so we find ourselves in a society in which progress and discontent are engaged in an almost desperate race with each other.”*

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* G. Warren Nutter, “Freedom in a Revolutionary Economy,” in Nutter, Political Economy and Freedom (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1983), pp. 3-19; the quotation is on pp. 15-16.


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