February 8, 2016 Print

Photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Economic inequality is a continual theme among the progressive left and their favorite academics, like French economist Thomas Piketty and his popular tome calling for global redistributionist taxation to correct this perceived problem. Economists who have examined both the data and underlying theory carefully, though, have found substantial problems with both. Atlas Network has established the Op-Eds on Inequality Grant, a program that supports the authorship of persuasive and factual opinion pieces placed in popular media that provide the average reader a clearer understanding of the issue of income inequality, making the more academic critiques of Piketty’s work, among others, accessible and relatable in practical terms.

Some of these commentaries have recently appeared in a variety of international media outlets in Romania, Slovakia, Georgia, South Africa, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and more.

  • “Income inequalities are not an effective measure of well-being, because poverty is not a permanent condition,” wrote Mathieu Bédard, an economist with the Montreal Economic Institute, in the Le Huffington Post Québec (translated from French). “What is most important now is that the condition of all social classes improves. The economist Deirdre McCloskey calls this the Great Truth. Although the human species was confined to crushing poverty for 99.7% of its existence, about 200 years ago the living conditions began to rapidly improve, and parents could finally see their children live better they had experienced themselves. We owe this Great Truth not to the denunciation of inequalities, but to entrepreneurship and innovation, and the fact that we began to see these two things as virtuous.”
  • “No one disputes that there is poverty and inequalities of wealth and income in Romania,” wrote economist Radu Nechita in the Romanian magazine Capital (translated from Romanian). “However, concern for remedying and overcoming the situation diverts attention from the real problem (poverty) and of its causes (inequality before the law). Worse, with this approach, proposed policies to reduce income or spread wealth actually perpetuate poverty. Finally, increasing state intervention in the economy and society, they generate inequality and revolt, because it results from political privilege (forced redistribution of wealth) rather than from the production of additional wealth.”
  • “Globally, the standard of living of the poorest people on the planet is rapidly converging with the living standards of developed countries, as well as life expectancy, sanitation, schooling, and access to comfort modern technologies,” wrote Marc Lassort, head of research at the Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues, in French newspaper La Tribune (translated from French). “However, there are more worrying inequalities that may prevent the reduction of poverty in a number of countries. These inequalities include access to the rule of law, statutory inequalities imposed by some state regulations, privileges granted to industrial groups, etc. All these inequalities contribute to reduce the degree of openness and inclusiveness of institutions and promote the status quo. Oxfam should be interested in this type of inequality imposed by government when it surpresses innovation, entrepreneurship, competition, and thus economic growth, because they are powerful obstacles to poverty reduction and thus to decreasing inequality.”

Additional recent commentaries include: