“Income Inequality” is the Wrong Question

I’ve been reflecting lots recently on the idea of income inequality. I think it is the profoundly wrong question to be exploring.

I think the question we are in fact seeking when we venture into that domain is the question of DIGNITY. Why do some people on the planet live in such total poverty while others live in abundant excess? It’s the absolute poverty that is the huge problem there.

What is unfair is the endless bottom, the fact that human beings can fall to such desperate circumstances. When we tie the two together, that of limitless earning potential with limitless poverty, we produce confusing and problematic questions about equality, justice, distribution of goods on the planet, social class, access to capital, the list goes on.

If we began instead with a simple question: “What is the basic floor of dignity  beneath which a human being should not fall?” we will produce different concerns. We will focus on basic food, healthcare, housing and mental wellness. It is within our reach to answer at least the food, healthcare and housing pieces for every person on the planet.

The danger is that when we speak of doing so by forcibly redistributing wealth from others, you get into wars, generous people become recalcitrant and everything goes down the tubes.

We need to focus on providing this basic level of reduced human suffering and I think we will be surprised to find how many other problems of extremism and conflict are alleviated.

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