Acton Institute Senior Editor Joe Carter joined host Darryl Wood’s Run to Win show on WLQV in Detroit this afternoon to discuss the issue of income inequality from a Christian perspective. The interview keyed off of Carter’s article, What Every Christian Should Know About Income Inequality. You can listen to the entire interview using the audio player below.
There are, according to Christian teaching, 7 deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Unchecked, these dark places in the human heart will lead to the ultimate death of Hell (yes, some of us still believe in that.)
There is much discussion today about “income inequality.” President Obama has declared it the most important issue of our time. He says it is not about equal incomes, but equal opportunity, referencing the rise of Abraham Lincoln from poverty to presidency. CNN is now declaring such inequality “the great destroyer” and notes that it includes not just opportunity, but wealth and income as well.
I am left wondering: has “income inequality” become code for “envy?”
John Zmirak, in a piece from Crisis, asks us to test our envy, and I think it’s a good idea. First, let’s be clear as to what envy truly is. St. Thomas Aquinas breaks it down into four parts, and it is the fourth that really drives home the point: (more…)
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama has signaled that income inequality will be his domestic focus during the remainder of his term in office. The fact that the president considers income inequality, rather than employment or economic growth, to be the most important economic issue is peculiar, though not really surprising. For the past few years the political and cultural elites have become obsessed with the issue.
But what should Christians think, and how should we approach the issue? Should we also be concerned? And if so, what should we do about it?
Here are ten points about income inequality that every Christian should understand:
The saga of “income inequality” stretches on. The young people of the Occupy Wall Street movement now have a website, and President Obama has proclaimed it the “defining issue of our time.” But what IS it exactly? Does it mean that a teacher, a brain surgeon and a garbage collector should all earn the same wage? Does it mean the wealthy entrepreneur should simply give away her money, rather than investing it or leaving it to her heirs?
American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg believes if we’re going to keep talking about income inequality, we’d better figure out what it is. In a USA Today piece, Goldberg says liberals and conservatives view the idea of “income inequality” in very different ways: (more…)
Inequality in consumption used to be a matter of acreage. Throughout most of history, economic value was chiefly found in land or personal property. The divide between the rich and the poor was therefore between those who owned property and those who did not.
But the age of technology has changed that. “A billionaire and a member of the middle class have relatively equal portals to the wonders of the internet,” says John O. McGinnis, “certainly far more equal access than the rich and the rest of society would have had to the material goods that defined wealth in centuries past.” Nowadays, if we want to reduce inequality we need to focus on redistributing the benefits of ideas and innovations:
Someone should tell university administrators and educators that their primary purpose is to guarantee that graduates will have better incomes than those who are not fortunate enough to attend college. In addition, colleges and universities are now, it seems, supposed to be places where everyone equally becomes one of the “Joneses.”
In an article titled, “Rethinking the Rise of Inequality“, Eduardo Porter of the New York Times writes that college education is about solving the income disparity problem. Porter opens the story with this odd statement: “Many Americans have come to doubt the proposition that college delivers a path to prosperity.” What? Is that what college is about? Making people prosperous? What college has making graduates prosperous as its mission? Why would anyone go to college just to become economically “prosperous”?
Are colleges off the target then? Are they missing their new true calling? The mission of Brown University is “to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” Clemson University states, “Our primary purpose is educating undergraduate and graduate students to think deeply about and engage in the social, scientific, economic, and professional challenges of our times. The foundation of this mission is the generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge.” Fort Lewis College (Colorado), says that its mission is to offer “accessible, high quality, baccalaureate liberal arts education to a diverse student population, preparing citizens for the common good in an increasingly complex world.”
Do these colleges, and many others, simply not get it? It seems that these schools are primarily interested in student learning and the formation of good citizens, so when did college reduce to being a means of addressing “income inequality”?
For years I was unable to understand the reasoning behind the claims that income inequality is a moral issue that only applies at the group level. Then it came to me like an epiphany—or more accurately, as a Groupon email.
According to Wikipedia, the Groupon works as an assurance contract: If a certain number of people sign up for an offer, then the deal becomes available to all; if the predetermined minimum is not met, no one gets the deal that day.
The popular argument for claiming that income inequality is a moral issue appears to rely on a similar idea: If a certain number of people agree to abide by a moral obligation, then the obligation is required by all; if the predetermined minimum is not met, no is required to meet the obligation.
In the case of income inequality, few people are willing to agree that it even compels a moral obligation, much less one they must abide by. So the income inequality moralists believe that force must be factored into the equation. The formulation then becomes:
This is a guest post by Michael Hendrix, following up on his previous post on the economic challenges of millennials, and my own post on the deeper vocational questions that persist for Christians. Michael serves as the director for emerging issues and research at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of St. Andrews and a Texas native.
By Michael Hendrix
Twenty years from now, we will see an America where merit and reward are intertwined more than ever before. As I’ve written recently, those who win the future will significantly outpace their peers, leaving the rest to fight over the scraps until organizational innovations and human capital catches up once again.
If true, such a reality must be reckoned with. So what about those left behind? What will their futures look like? With decreases in gainful employment and the increasing disconnect between vocational aspirations and actual occupations, what other risks persist — economic, social, spiritual, and otherwise? Assuming we are not comfortable with such a future, what should we do about it?
Earlier this week I claimed you rarely hear progressives argue that income inequality is a problem since for them it just is an injustice. But there’s another reason you rarely hear them make arguments about why income inequality is morally wrong: their actual arguments are terrible.
CNN columnist John D. Sutter recently asked four people — Nigel Warburton, a freelance philosopher and writer; Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute; Thomas Pogge, director of the Global Justice Program at Yale; and Kentaro Toyama, researcher at the University of California at Berkeley — to answer the question, “Is income inequality ‘morally wrong’?”
Sutter only summarizes their arguments, but it’s doubtful they would become more coherent or persuasive if they were in book-length form. So let’s examine each of the summaries:
When it comes to household income, progressives tend to start with their intuitive understanding of fairness (i.e., some people have a lot more income than others), move to the solution (redistribution of income and wealth from those who have more to those who have less), and only then to develop a metric that justifies implementing their solution: income inequality.
Because of this roundabout approach, you rarely hear progressives argue that income inequality is a problem since for them it just is an injustice — and that wealth redistribution is the primary solution. When conservatives and libertarians disagree about whether it even is an issue we should be concerned with, we are considered heart-hearted apologists for an immoral capitalist system.
The truth, however, is that we don’t care about income inequality because relative differences in income tell us nothing about fairness or the just distribution of wealth. What we care about — what everyone should care about — is whether people have adequate opportunities to increase their household’s income, and hence, improve their standard of living. While there is no truly adequate gauge to measure such opportunities, we can get a fair estimate based on measurements of social mobility.