Sunday, October 18, 2015

Worldwide inequality continues to increase, middle class declines, poor get poorer

The Credit Suisse 2015 report is covered by

The top one percent of households "account for half of all assets in the world," according to a new report from a leading multinational bank.

The 2015 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report puts worldwide wealth inequality at a level "possibly not seen for almost a century," the researchers write. The data also reveals a declining middle class and that the poorest half of the world's population owns just one percent of its assets. Meanwhile, the number of "ultra-wealthy" people continues to climb.

"The Credit Suisse report shows that inequality is growing faster than we had thought," said Claire Godfrey, global inequality policy lead for Oxfam. "The fact that it has happened this year underlines the urgency of the problem."

George Will, in his column in the Daily star, complains about Sanders' stance on the uber-wealthy and in so doing defends inequality.

Bernie Sanders is doing well, if not good, by reducing the debate about equality to resentment of large fortunes.

He should read Harry G. Frankfurt’s new book "On Inequality." It is so short that even a peripatetic candidate can read it, and so lucid that he cannot miss its inconvenient point: "It is misguided to endorse economic egalitarianism as an authentic moral ideal."

Frankfurt, a Princeton emeritus professor of philosophy, argues that economic inequality is not inherently morally objectionable.

For the sake of argument, let's grant Will that extreme economic inequality is not "inherently morally objectionable."

"To the extent that it is truly undesirable, it is on account of its almost irresistible tendency to generate unacceptable inequalities of other kinds," he writes.


These can include access to elite education, political influence and other nontrivial matters. But Frankfurt’s alternative to economic egalitarianism is the "doctrine of sufficiency," which is that the moral imperative should be that everyone have enough.

So if extreme economic inequality produces these other kinds of inequality, then equality of opportunity is also compromised.

The pursuit of increased economic equality might, but need not, serve the ethic of sufficiency. And this pursuit might distract people from understanding, and finding satisfaction with, "what is needed for the kind of life a person would most sensibly and appropriately seek."

This has nothing to do with "the quantity of money that other people happen to have." Frankfurt argues that "doing worse than others does not entail doing badly."

But the fact is that in the case of extreme inequality, "doing worse" is often accompanied by economic and political poverty. The "quantity of money that other people happen to have" does not just "happen". Such disparities occur because of governmental tax policies. For example, close to home here in Arizona, tax breaks suck money out of the public coffer that might otherwise be spent on achieving "sufficiency."

As usual, I find George Will's defense of inequality about as sensible as Ben Carson's take on dead kids.

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