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The Equality Equivocation

From The Objective Standard, Vol. 9, No. 4.

Equality EquivocationLeftists constantly harp on the so-called problem of inequality—by which they mean inequality of income, wealth, or opportunity. Paul Krugman bemoans “the ever-growing gap between the rich and the rest.”1 Barack Obama says inequality is “the defining challenge of our time.”2 Ezra Klein says inequality “offends our moral intuitions” and “tears into the fabric of the American dream.”3 Jim Wallis says inequality in America is “a sin of biblical proportions.”4 And, of course, the left offers various prescriptions for solving this “problem”—such as hiking taxes on the so-called rich, expanding welfare programs for the so-called poor, capping executive pay, increasing the minimum wage, banning private schools, and spending more money on government schools.

But, unless theft or other violations of rights are involved, the fact that some people have higher incomes or more wealth or more opportunities than others is a fact that doesn’t matter—or, if it does matter, it’s good.

An individual’s life is not in any way made worse by other people having more money or opportunities than he has. On the contrary, the more money and opportunities other people have, the more likely they are to create values—including opportunities—that will enhance his life.

People who earn substantial wealth do so by creating goods or services and trading them with others in the marketplace by mutual consent to mutual advantage. These same successful people tend to use their wealth to expand their businesses or to create new businesses, thus offering even more goods or services for trade. And all of these goods and services constitute opportunities for other people.

For instance, because wealthy Americans with great opportunities have invested in for-profit and nonprofit ventures, all Americans, including the so-called poor, now have the opportunity to buy clothing, groceries, and countless other goods from Kohl’s, Wal-Mart,, and the like—the opportunity to buy health care and medicine from the Mayo Clinic, AtlasMD, Patient First, Walgreens, and the like—the opportunity to take countless free courses offered by Khan Academy, Google for Education, Coursera, Udacity, and the like—the opportunity to buy (or, in some cases, use for free) tools and resources for starting and managing a business, such as those provided by Etsy, Weebly, EBay, PayPal, My Own Business, and LegalZoom—the opportunity to buy (or use for free) productivity-enhancing tools, software, and programs, such as those provided by Apple, Asana, Evernote, Trello, and Getting Things Done—the opportunity to buy (or use for free) money-saving and time-saving services provided by companies such as Kayak, Uber, Task Rabbit, and Zirtual—and, of course, the opportunity to pursue jobs or careers with the countless businesses that wealthy people have started or expanded by means of their wealth and opportunities.

But all of this is lost on the left. . . .

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1. Paul Krugman, “Why Inequality Matters,” New York Times, December 15, 2013,

2. “Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility,” White House, December 4, 2013,

3. Ezra Klein, “Inequality Isn’t ‘The Defining Challenge of Our Time,’” Washington Post, December 13, 2013,

. . .