Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
There’s inequality and then there’s inequality
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, February 11, 2007

Greg Mankiw has a short post about inequality that distills nicely how the concept is viewed differently by right and left:
Ben Bernanke gives a talk on inequality, concluding that

the challenge for policy is not to eliminate inequality per se but rather to spread economic opportunity as widely as possible.
By contrast, Brad DeLong concludes

An unequal society cannot help but be an unjust society.
These quotations go to the heart of the policy divide behind right and left. The key question: To what extent is inequality of outcomes a source for concern in and of itself? People will always differ in productivity. Should policymakers act to offset these innate differences, or should their goal be to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly? To a large extent, policymaking often comes back to Rawls vs Nozick.
The conversation is an economic one, not a legal one, so please refrain from citing "justice" as DeLong's point (although I'm sure that he'd eventually get to something called "social justice" if his premise were realized).

Deal with Mankiw's "key question" (emphasized above).

I'm sure you know where I fall on this but I'm also interested in hearing which version of equality you feel is appropriate for government to pursue. Opportunity? Or outcome?

Why?

And, how do we achieve your desired outcome?

HT: OTB
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Actually stating that I don’t believe in equality of outcome as a goal seems a bit silly, but okay, I don’t. More importantly I don’t care.

What is odd, and struck me when I first read it, is that much of the piece was reasonable if open to a lot of disagreements, but that particular statement was out of place in it.

An unequal society cannot help but be an unjust society.
Given his own beliefs on economics he is saying the world is unjust no matter what. Educational improvement is his only policy suggestion which he believes will help, though not dramatically, but who is opposed to that? If Brad Delong were President, he is saying that he would deserve criticism for being unjust. He doesn’t actually believe we should have equality of outcome, he just believes that having inequality of outcome is unjust. Huh?

Maybe he is saying "too bad, the world is unjust and always will be, and it will not be much different no matter what. We all just have to come to grips with reality, though our policies will claim to be doing something much more dramatic because it helps us get peoples votes who want to feel progressive?" I think Obama should run on that slogan, "Working for an unjust world that I like more, but really, in the end nothing I would consider doing will make much difference." Liberals will be signing up for that.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
The premise of a statement such as Delongs is that economic egalitarianism (specifically equal outcomes) creates "justice".

That’s really the premise I’d like to see someone defend, since it requires a fairly extensive retooling of the definition of justice in my opinion. Yet Delong throws it out in that line as if we should all know the form of "justice" he’s lamenting when he talks about an "unjust society".

How, if all are provided an equal opportunity, does a society that ends up being "unequal" also end up "unjust"?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I agree that unequal in no way can be considered unjust. I just find it odd that he acknowledges that his preferred policies would be unjust as well. At least radical leftists or communitarian’s believe that they can achieve a just society under the terms of a society being unjust if the outcomes are unequal. Delong thinks they are wrong, yet accepts their definition of justice.

In reality I think Delong often endorses or defends policies he doesn’t really believe in, or doesn’t agree with the reasons of the people he allies with, or doesn’t really think their arguments are strong but acts as if they are. The statement is in effect a sop to his fellow travelers, and a nod to what got him to study economics in the first place, a desire to achieve "social justice." He doesn’t really believe it anymore (my guess is he refuses to even examine it consciously in a rigorous manner) but relationships, nostalgia and political calculation keep the pieces of the rhetoric and his policies drift that direction long after he has abandoned it in rigorous or substantial form.

There are people who will defend that statement, but I don’t think Delong will. He’ll refuse to argue except by assertion and move on, because he does not believe our government should do what it would take to achieve it, or anything even reasonably close to it..
 
Written By: Lance
URL: www.asecondhandconjecture.com
To what extent is inequality of outcomes a source for concern in and of itself?
If that’s the question, then I confess that I don’t understand it. We might as well ask "To what extent is inequality of intelligence and ability a source for concern in and of itself?" Absent Kurt Vonnegut’s solution in Harrison Bergeron, there is no way to give everyone the same intelligence and ability.

Socialism is basically the Harrison Bergeron solution on the economic side instead of the intelligence/ability side. Just as in Vonnegut’s story, it’s impossible to get something resembling equality by lifting up all those at the bottom, so the only way to attack the problem is by cutting down those at the top.

Socialism does the same thing. To the extent that it gives equality of outcome, it makes everyone equally miserable. I content that, since you can’t give talent, ability, or motivation to people who don’t have it, the only way to even approach equality of outcome is by throttling those who do have those qualities. I believe that any solution that purports to drive equality of outcomes will have the same effects as socialism, more or less, depending on just how aggressively those of ability are throttled.

To me, that is clearly unjust to everyone. Do you want to live as a poor, lazy person in a rich society such as America, or as a poor, lazy person in Cuba or North Korea? Allowing those who have ability to use it to the fullest produces external effects that benefit those with lesser ability. How can it possibly be just to punish both groups?


 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
An unequal society cannot help but be an unjust society.
I agree! I demand as hot a wife (including similarity of cup size) as your average MLB player. Otherwise it is an UNJUST world!!!
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
What DeLong is arguing for is that equal opportunity disappear in favor of a governmentally mandated outcome.

DeLong is living in a fantasy world.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Added thought;

WHOSE desired outcome?
I mean, are we working under the assumption that everybody should be equally wealthy? Or, Poor) Who gets to define what constitutes wealthy?

And To swipe a phrase from somebody you posted just recently; how do you benchmark such a thing?
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
If that’s the question, then I confess that I don’t understand it. We might as well ask "To what extent is inequality of intelligence and ability a source for concern in and of itself?"
I think that was the purpose of the question, Billy. I think to most of us see it and realize that the only honest answer is no extent at all.

However, there are a bunch of folks that don’t buy into that at all. I’d love to see them answer the question posed in a manner which quantifies the "extent" in such a way that it explains why it should be a ’source of concern’ economically.

Frankly, I don’t think it can be done. But it seems you have to go through this once or twice a generation to reintroduce the lessons learned from previous generations (I mean look at Chavez, for heaven sake).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"An unequal society cannot help but be an unjust society."

A catchy little phrase, probably will sound great in someones campaign speech, and a terrific sound bite, but absolutely meaningless without enough qualifications and explanations to turn it into a book.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Lance said,
I think Obama should run on that slogan, "Working for an unjust world that I like more, but really, in the end nothing I would consider doing will make much difference."
Even with the nascent trend of candidates hiring bloggers to fire up their campaigns with snappy banter and stuff, I’m thinking you should maybe not give up your day blog just yet.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
...but absolutely meaningless without enough qualifications and explanations to turn it into a book.
Das Kapital.

The book is already done.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Linda,
Even with the nascent trend of candidates hiring bloggers to fire up their campaigns with snappy banter and stuff, I’m thinking you should maybe not give up your day blog just yet.
Heh, probably true, but the awkwardness was kinda the point.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
"The book is already done."

Ah, right. Silly of me to forget. And of course when those pigs get their equal and just society, it will be discovered that some are more equal than others.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider