WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENTS THAT SAY INEQUALITY (SOME RICH AND SOME POOR) IS BETTER THAN EQUALITY (NO RICH AND NO POOR)--EVEN FOR THE POOREST?
by John Spritzler
The URL of this article for sharing it is https://www.pdrboston.org/no-inequality-is-not-better
Those who defend class inequality (click here for what is perhaps the most articulate such defense, by Ludwig von Mises), say there ought to be some rich and some poor, and they give two faulty arguments for why.
First, they argue that capitalism, which is indeed inherently based on economic inequality, produces more wealth than egalitarianism, and thereby provides a higher standard of living for the poorest people than they would have in an egalitarian society where all were economically equal. It turns out that this is just factually not true, as discussed in some detail in "Which Creates a Higher Standard of Living: Capitalism or Egalitarianism?" (click here to read it.) To the extent that we want to increase productivity (an important question, given important environmental concerns and the need for human life on the planet to be sustainable in the long term, and also that people may wish to work less and make do with less but have more leisure) an egalitarian society is far more capable of that than a capitalist one, and is far more likely to do it in a manner that is responsible rather than motivated by the greed of a few billionaires.
Second, they argue that everybody benefits when just a few have luxuries. Their claim is that what is considered a luxury ends up eventually being considered a necessity (Ludwig von Mises cites the example of using a fork to eat--initially, he says, only the rich aristocrats used a fork and regular people used their fingers; he also cites indoor toilets enjoyed, initially, only by the rich but now considered a necessity by even the poorest in developed nations.) If such luxuries could not be initially enjoyed by the rich, they argue, then they would never be enjoyed by anybody.
This is a truly stupid argument. It uses the conclusion it aims to prove as a premise--totally illogical. It amounts to saying this: "In a society that is organized in such a way that novel things like forks and indoor toilets cannot be widely available to all unless they are first made available only to a few very rich people, then any novel thing not first made available only to a few rich people will never be widely available to all."
But it is just as "logical" to make the following argument exactly parallel to Ludwig von Mises's silly "logic." It would go like this:
"In a society organized in such a way that novel things like forks and indoor toilets become widely available to all only after being made available to a few who enjoy them as a result of the rationing of scarce things in an equitable manner according to need, then any novel thing not first made available only to a few who enjoy them as a result of the rationing of scarce things in an equitable manner according to need will never be widely available to all."
People like von Mises argue from the premise that capitalism (or, more generally, class inequality) is the only way society can be organized, and idiotically conclude, therefore, that whatever good things appear in a capitalist (or class-inequality) society could only have appeared in a capitalist (or class-inequality) society in the manner that capitalism (or class inequality) causes them to appear.
We're always told by the defenders of inequality that the very rich--people like Bill Gates--produce jobs and if they weren't allowed to be very rich they would stop producing jobs. This argument, like the one above about how we need rich people to enjoy luxuries others don't get to enjoy, rests on the assumption that the only way the world can be is the way it presently is--a capitalist world. Sure, if a few rich capitalists personally own all of the things, like farmland and factories, etc., that people need in order to produce the products and services they want (which is what capitalism means), and if the only way a regular person can obtain any of these products and services is by paying for them with money (which is what capitalism means), and if the only way a regular person can obtain money is by "having a job," i.e., agreeing to work for a capitalist and do whatever he or she commands (which is what capitalism means), then yes, it is true that only a rich capitalist "produces" jobs and regular people need jobs: a lot of IFs!
But what if it is NOT a capitalist society but an egalitarian one? What if the farmland and factories, etc. are, like the air we breathe and the sunshine that warms us, not the personal property of a few rich capitalists but rather acknowledged to belong to all of society for the good of all? What if people in local communities democratically decided how the farmland and factories, etc. in their community should be used? What if they decided to let everybody who wanted to work reasonably on the farmland and in the factories, etc. do so (as discussed above in the Sharing Economy section) and then to let them take for free the products and services they reasonably wanted (as discussed above also)? Then nobody would need or even want a "job" (meaning an agreement to work for a rich capitalist and do whatever he or she commanded). A sort of parable about this is here.
Far from class inequality not being better than equality, there are extremely important reasons for abolishing class inequality over and beyond the simple injustice of it. Go here for some discussion of these reasons.