Taking the Income Inequality Debate to the Next Level

The Cato Unbound debates are good at exploring as many facets of an issue as possible, and then going back and forth a few times on each facet to make sure all the possibilities are fleshed out. Elizabeth Anderson says what I said about political power…only she says it better. John V. C. Nye says what I said about the financial crisis…only he says it better. And to my delight, Kenworthy gets into the discussion I’d been hoping for, starting with policy suggestions:

Potentially helpful policies include more aggressive early education, improved K-12 schooling, portable health insurance and pensions, more generous unemployment compensation, wage insurance, retraining, job placement assistance, a minimum wage pegged to inflation, and a beefed-up EITC for those without children.vv

There are far too many policies for me to address them individually here, but suffice it to say he’s starting the conversation on the right track. He also dips his feet in the controversial waters of redistribution. If you like this paragraph, you’ll love Jonathan Chait’s recent essay on Ayn Rand:

Hard work, drive, and diligence are heavily influenced by luck. To a considerable extent, they are a result of things over which we have no control: our genes, development in utero, birth order, our parents’ traits, childhood nutrition and health, early social experiences with peers, and stumbling into an occupation that suits our likes and abilities, among others.

Now, the fact that luck plays a significant role in outcomes by no means implies that we should redistribute until outcomes are perfectly equal, or even close to equal. How much to redistribute requires taking a variety of things into account, including administrative costs and incentives for work, investment, and innovation. But luck’s influence means that redistribution is a justifiable remedy.

John Rawls would be proud. This time, Kenworthy does not disappoint. Read all three.