What's wrong with inequality?

April 23, 2019 (316 words) :: Surely inequality is just a natural consequence of innovation. And anyway, it's not that bad.
Tags: inequality

This post is day 113 of a personal challenge to write every day in 2019. See the other fragments, or sign up for my weekly newsletter.

(This fragment is actually coming out 2 days late, because I was on vacation for 2 days and didn’t open my laptop a single time. It’s been years since I last went laptop-less for more than 24 hours, and it turns out that it’s actually pretty great. 10/10 would recommend.

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about economic inequality, in a way which assumes that the reader already agrees that it’s a bad thing. Unfortunately, the notion that economic inequality is bad is by no means a universally accepted one, especially in the tech industry. After all, the tech industry is all about creating wealth, and since that necessarily trickles down in a way that is unequal, then surely inequality is proof of dynamism and wealth creation? What’s wrong with an economic system that occasionally creates multi-multi-billionaires if that’s the price we pay for innovation? And in any case, what’s wrong with there being a few extremely wealthy people around, if they aren’t hurting anyone?

So I’m going to use this (delayed) blog post to explain the reasoning behind my anti-inequality perspective from first principles. My intrepretation of pro-inequality arguments is that they rest, somewhat fuzzily, on two main planks, which together make the argument that inequality isn’t that bad:

  1. Inequality is necessary to drive innovation (to reward the entrepreneurs); and
  2. Economic inequality isn’t necessarily harmful.

My approach will be to accept that premises have some validity, but only under very limited circumstances. In particular, I don’t think those circumstances are either fully applicable to our world today, nor the best circumstances we can engineer.

Because I’m 3 days behind on fragments, I’m going to break up this post into multiple pieces, responding to both assertions above:

  1. We can have entrepreneurship without extreme wealth (day 114)
  2. Economic inequality is almost never harmless (day 115)

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