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Transatlantic Blog

Video: Dispelling myths about economic inequality

The lure of socialism lies in its promise of “equality,” a hazily defined concept that educational and political leaders transform into an even more ambiguous social goal. The word itself triggers the innate sense of fairness and equity cherished by everyone raised under the influence of Western culture. The Bible, after all, repeatedly warns believers to have no respect of persons when meting out justice, which Aquinas ranked as “foremost among all the moral virtues.”

But do modern-day social engineers propose equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? Often the distinction, and the underlying facts, get lost in erroneous and overwrought assertions that inequality has never been so glaring or so brutal.

Although “inequality” is a misleading measure for society, even these contentions are unsupported by the evidence. Two transatlantic leaders have taken aim at these arguments this week.

Ryan Bourne of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs puts both reason and hard economic data together in a new article noting that “income inequality” has actually been static or declining for years:

A recent study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that the main measure (the Gini coefficient) has been flat for the past quarter century.

 

The [UK’s Office of National Statistics] version of the same stat suggests it has actually fallen recently and is now around its lowest level since 1987. ... Research by the economist Branko Milanovic shows that overall income inequality fell between 1988 and 2008 for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, as China and India saw soaring economic growth rates.

Some intellectuals, gradually bowing to this undeniable reality, have shifted their focus to “wealth inequality.” But this gap, too, is closing. “Looking at the wealth share of the top 10 per cent and top one per cent, it peaked around 1914, and then fell substantially through to the 1970s,” Bourne writes.

Daniel Hannan, Member of European Parliament for South East England and editor of The Conservative, addresses these issues with his usual mix of alacrity and acumen in a new PragerU video released on Monday.

Both the column and the video are valuable, since Christians cannot cultivate justice anywhere except on the solid ground of reality.


Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.