A simple but reasonable definition of inequality says that moving any part of a distribution toward its median value (while holding the rest of the distribution constant) reduces the inequality in that distribution. Moving a part away from the median value increases inequality.
'If "doing good" = "use innate talents to benefit other people", then I'm not sure I agree incentives for that can be too great - why wouldn't we want to maximize that?' We might not want to maximize that because it would make our own lives unbearable. Peter Singer argues that, as long as there is severe poverty, we who are not poor should make working to alleviate that poverty our highest priority, to the point where giving presents to our children, enjoying restaurant meals, or basically any personal consumption above meeting whatever needs allow us to continue to work to help the poor are all immoral. Why wouldn't we want to maximize that? Because it is too demanding and makes ordinary life impossible.
Doesn't self-improvement induce inequality only where it is relative to others? Where a tax system, let's say, redistributes all incomes to the median, or where a health care system is universal, the only incentive to improve would be personal and the inequalities personal as well. The desire to know more or be more physically active might not then enter the zero sum game of socially harmful inequalities. Inequalities might be unequal in their consequences -- some socially harmful, others socially harmless, others beneficial. Do we want to cultivate physicians who want to be rich or cultivate those who are interested in medicine? We might ask which inequalities we want our social structure to incentivize, if any. Overcoming bias, for example, could be its own reward.
No. Ceteris paribum the choice of acting lazier than you have to, to get closer to median lazyness would be a choice for equality. But if you're acting lazier than that, you're chosing inequality. But if you're combined score for all the other [insert success-enabling trait] are low AND you're chosing to not be MORE disciplined than the median, you're also chosing inequality. The reverse case of being high in the other traits and being lazy... yeah sure, that's chosing equality. We also tend to call this settling for mediocrity.
Robin, you are like the opposite of Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand here. If every business man works to be richer, the effect may or may not be more inequality, but the evidence is the result sure as heck is that there is more wealth. This feels like the beginnings of a conclusion that seeking equality is an immoral goal, at least if your statements here are part of that.
All right, time for me to stop reading your blog if you are still excited about any individual posting too many comments at once. See you again in a few months.
If we all try to increase our income or our sex partners, than we are engaging in a strategy to increase the median income or number of sex partners. To be Rawlsian about it, I would rather have any position in a society in which we all tried hard to improve our positions than in a society in which those of us above median through a value of equality worked to decrease the median amount of good in the world.
They aren't both valid measurements for comparing standard of living across countries and using exchange rate values in dollars without PPP will skew inequality among countries as well.
I don't care about inequality qua inequality. Clearly, there are certain domains of human life where what is fair might require unequal distributions of good. As a very fraught example, the guilty do not deserve the same amount of years in prison as the innocent. So, even in an ideal world, the distribution of years of prison sentences across the total population would be unequal, but that's a "fair" conclusion.
But there are some domains of human life where what is fair might in fact require an equal distribution of something. I may discern that it is fair that all people deserve at least 10 Twitter followers by virtue of their being human. However, in the real world, almost everyone has less than 10 Twitter followers. But, that could be changed. So, talking about inequality here is mainly just a pointer to the idea that "Hey, there's enough goods for us to come to a condition that is fair, but we're not at that fair condition yet."
In this world, I would be fine if everyone had 10 Twitter followers but a few people had a million. But, I would still use the term "inequality" to describe the problem, to highlight the fact that resources could be more efficiently distributed to other people.
You mentioned income, wealth, IQ, and sex partners. And it looked like those were examples, so the discussion was on equality gerenerally.
The way income and wealth is taxed shows that people do care enough about equality in those areas to make a diffetence. Education expenditure also shows similar for intellectual ability in some way if not IQ exactly. Historical rules on sex and current monogamy rules also show some concern for equalising sex, but probably not as much as historically.
On further thought I'd now say that equlality as an absolute and exclusive value is just as logically contradictory as freedom. Absolute equality of income means wealth will not be absolutely equal because of different costs. When it comes to the details equality can not be absolute any more than freedom.
But, people do care about both in genetal enough to make a difference.
I don't consider "inequality" in and of itself to be a problem to be solved. This is only a real problem if we are talking about a zero-sum game. Does my becoming wealthier make other people poorer in an absolute sense? Or, alternatively, does my becoming healthier make other people less healthy? If I become more educated, does this automatically make other people less educated? If you think that the mere existence of differences is an evil to be expunged, then you want to live in the world of "Harrison Bergeron" where everyone is made equal by handicapping the superior.
If you are above median, you are in fact "rich", and so the concept I discuss is exactly the difference between rich and median. In this case your choice to get richer is in fact a way you choose more inequality of that sort.
No, I'm saying that in this most common of all situation people don't value it enough for it to make a difference.
"needs"? Both are valid concepts, and correspond to valid types of inequality.
Thus, unsurprisingly, the problem is "caring about inequality".
By which I mean "inequality per se", as if "inequality" is a problem.
It is not; most of the time when people speak of it as one they have the idea that the "more" people are taking from the "less" people. This is ... very often not true.
(My thought experiment for that is "would it be better for the world to be as it is right now, or to be changed so that everyone except the .01% richest people are literally twice as well off, in material terms of access to luxuries, staples, wealth in any form, etc. ... but that .01% get *three times* as rich?
if the answer is "no", we live in different conceptual universes and I don't even know where to start with you, because "yes" is so obviously correct from my perspective that you shouldn't get to pretend you care about "the poors" if you'd rather keep the rich from being richer at the cost of keeping the poors poorer.)
TL;DR - too much of "inequality" discourse is founded in barely (or not at all) disguised ressentiment, and we should look to Nietzsche for what reseentiment does to people.)
The median income is much higher than $850 a year. Purchasing Power Parity needs to be used. Our World in Data shows Tanzania, one of the world's poorest countries to have a median income of $700 (PPP).
Does this mean that lazy people choose equality?
There's a similar argument about "freedom". Freedom to drive on whatever side of the road you please, or freedom to get to your destination without injury. No one who values freedom values it to the exclusion of all other values, it's not even logically possible to do that. No one who values equality values it to the exclusion of all other values either, and I can't remember anyone ever claiming to. Maybe it's not logically impossible to do so, but, as you often explain, it's unlikely to be practical. Almost everyone knows that, and almost everyone places some value on it and expects others to place some value on it, at least in ordinary day to day dealings if not in their academic theories, because it is often useful and practical.
Are you saying that no one should place any value at all on equality ever, and it's not worth the slightest bit of attention in any situation?