… is from page 233 of George Will’s 2019 book, The Conservative Sensibility:
Commerce always results in inequalities of outcome, and always should result in unequal rewards because different people have different abilities and desires to add value to the economy. It is, however, also true that commerce, which is based on contracts between consenting buyers and sellers, insinuates throughout society an egalitarian ethos that is subversive of aristocratic status.
DBx: Effects have causes. And incomes are effects.
Many people who complain about differences in monetary incomes treat effects as being uncaused; these people treat effects – specifically, the current amounts of monetary incomes earned by each of the many individuals or households throughout the country – as if the “distribution” of these incomes can be meaningfully evaluated independently of the countless number of individual preferences, choices, and actions that caused them to be what they currently are.
Or to be more exact: people who evaluate and ethically judge income (or wealth) “distributions” in this way generally reject most individual preferences and choices as playing a role in determining income (or wealth) “distributions.” Such people do very often turn to a particular attitude to explain income (or wealth) differences. This attitude is greed.
Why are individuals with unusually high monetary incomes so rich? A common answer is “greed.” Why are CEOs paid so much more than are ordinary workers? Again comes the answer “greed.”
Although I do believe that greed is both real and harmful, “greed” is a pathetically weak explanation of observed outcomes in markets. Yet “greed” nevertheless remains the principle cause offered for income (or wealth) inequalities by those who complain about such inequalities.
You can take the following advice to the bank: Ignore anyone who uses “greed” to explain observed outcomes in a group of people numbering larger than one or two dozen. He or she doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.