I have been doing my online course in Politics now for a few weeks – I thought that I would post a small excerpt of some writing I have done for it – don’t want it to not be read, after all. And timely in all political environments – the subject of equality.
Equality is highly prized in liberal-democratic societies. We often use “equality” as a synonym for justice. A just society, we imply, is one in which everyone is treated equally. After all, the guiding first principle of the American founding, according to the Declaration of Independence, was that “all men are created equal.”
In a market economy underwritten by the rule of law, the gap between rich and poor is not itself the source of injustice. The real problems have to do with underlying factors that impede success, stifle opportunity, and foster unhealthy dependence on government. If our goal is to help people in need, we can better achieve it by identifying and targeting the sources of true material deprivation. In cases of real injustice — for example, where students are trapped in failing schools or corrupt officials misuse public resources — we should focus public attention on finding effective remedies.
I think that what requires redistribution is not our income and monetary inequalities but our moral attention. The sooner our economic debates move beyond the gap between rich and poor to questions of growth, mobility, and enduring prosperity, the sooner we will be able to nurture conditions that allow everyone the opportunity to rise and flourish.