Why does everyone keep talking about income inequality?

Oct 2011
No... but as it stands a very small number of people receive incomes so far in excess of any need they could possibly ever have, whilst the majority receive incomes that barely meet their basic fundamental needs. And in reality their contributions are not that far apart. So proportionally speaking, there is extreme inequality in their incomes.

I think people are also not too happy about executives who receive huge bonuses, whilst the institutions they've been running have incurred huge losses, in some notable cases the tab of which, is picked up through public expense.

They do have a point, IMHO.
Dec 2010
Because people mistake money as equivalent to goods as equivalent to utility. That said, people opperate on the assumption that if some people didn't earn so much, others would make their loss in their place.

Not only that, but one's lack of finacial ability to do something is all the more blatant where others can do so. Inequality has been shown to correlate with crime and such, but I think the public takes it to be more significant than it is. That said there are important problems that inequality can exacerbate such as regulatory capture.
Apr 2011
As long as children are taught that the richer you are, more things you own, the more happier you are there will be plenty of envy.

Income inequality, the bigger the gap between the rich and poor is, causes unrest in society.
Apr 2008
Obviously it's never gonna be equal.
No, but I think that there is very good case to be made that extremely large inequalities in income are economically and socially harmful. They are often characteristic of economies that are on the edge of becoming "failed states".

The earliest well-documented case may have been the Roman Republic and later the Empire. The accumulation of immense wealth in the hands of a few families undermined political institutions, hollowed out the Italian economy until the former heartland had become a useless appendage of the Empire, and eroded its capability to invent and rejuvenate. Attempts to stop the self-reinforcing mechanisms that impoverished the many for the benefit of the few, were usually met with violence.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2009
I think envy is at the bottom of it. People resent the idea that anyone could be better off than they are.
Louise, I think that I might agree with you if we are talking about wealth on a personal level. Somebody has a bigger house, or a nicer car or 3 cars but we are talking about wealth of an unfathomable scale and with it, power to rule over each of us.

I guess it is how you frame the debate.

We respond on a gut level and emotional level when someone says. "It's my money, I earned it, no one has a right to take it away from me."

That would be right...

But is it always true?

Is it possible for most of the wealth of a nation to fall into a very few hands?

We see this exemplified in cleptocratic states like Zaire, where President Mobuto died with most of the nation's entire wealth was in his private Swiss bank account. This was true in for many of the royal houses of Europe and when wealth became so top heavy, you had terrible events like the French revolution. Wealth does have a tendency to concentrate. Great wealth does tend to exert power and influence.

Consentrated wealth was the real justification for an aristocracy or an elite class in Europe.

In the US and Europe today, it is the corporate class. Members of the Walton family occupy 4 positions of the top 10 wealthiest in the US and privately hold, as much as the lower 30% of the entire US population. Sam Walton did earn his money but should this accumulated fortune be passed down to family members intact? Because Walmart does not pay for health care for its basic employment, You and I are picking up the tab as taxpayers..

What happens if this trend of personal wealth preservation continues its trend?

I don't know the answers to these questions, I am just posing them rather than relying on the simple idea of...

"It's my money, I earned it, no one has a right to take it away from me."
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Ad Honorem
Jul 2010
Georgia, USA
Generally speaking, I do not begrudge financial success to anyone. Many have worked and sacrificed for most of their lives to gain financial security. But many have not, and stand on the shoulders of their forebearers and just ride along trying to not do damage to their legacys. It is these that seem to not care about working hard to maintain their status, and who task others with the maintenance the family fortune that scream the loudest about "redistribution" and "socialism" and "freeloading poor". They make me laugh.

Carlisle Blues

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
In some cases it is the "grass is always greener" attitude, others it is pure frustration within a system and others it is simple laziness in thought and action. Envy is always an ingredient.

I have always held the ideal if I want what is out there all I simply have to do is work for it. I may get it I may not, however, one sure thing is if I sit and bellyache about my lot in life it will not get better. No one is going to come over to me and hand me a financial make over.

Sharks and love

Ad Honorem
Jul 2008
Income inequality is highly correlated with violence in a society.

This has important policy implications.