Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why Inequality Matters

The conservative magazine Commentary has published an article on how social inequality is on the political agenda and on the minds of most Americans, even though many conservatives would prefer the case to be otherwise. The authors argue that, in part, the discussion of inequality should be oriented toward social mobility and poverty, as well as the "injustices" of government policy. What the authors apparently fail to realize is the possibility that inequality causes poverty and immobility, not to mention "unjust" government policies perpetuating inequality. In particular, higher inequality can cause low social mobility by increasing socioeconomic distances between the highest and lowest rungs of society, higher rates of poverty by segregating groups and distorting resource allocations, and inequality-perpetuating government policies by shifting costs from the wealthy to the general population (through, for example, cutting funds for widely-available public services and increasing take-home profits from private organizations).