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News The Distribution of Wealth in the US

  1. Oct 9, 2011 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    We had another thread addressing this issue and it was locked due to some problem with one source linked. What is a reasonable distribution of wealth? From my point of view, if what we see today is what our system is intended to produce, or if this is the best we can do under our system, then I reject our system. I expect more. I expect a system that leans towards justice and fairness. But I don't think the results are the ideal that we strive to achieve. I think most Americans want a system that is fundamentally fair - one that doesn't give an unreasonable advantage to the uber rich.

    http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2011 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Propaganda, not science.

    He asserts that class is the major factor here. It's not - you can see from census and BLS reports that what matters most is age. The wealthiest people are those who have either just retired or are just about to retire. Ignoring that is just bad science.

    Perhaps his conclusion is right, but his argument is lousy.
     
  4. Oct 9, 2011 #3

    Dale

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    I think this is an interesting question, and I have a follow-up question of my own: What are the rules of justice and fairness by which it becomes morally necessary to forcibly take money earned by one man and give it to another man who has not earned it?

    For example, in what way is it just or fair to take money from someone who is hard working and rich and give it to someone who is lazy and poor? Or, in what way is it just or fair to take money from someone who is hard working in a economically valuable role (like Steve Jobs) and give it to someone who is hard working in a less economically valuable role (like a mediocre poet)?

    What principle of justice and fairness requires the same outcome for different efforts?
     
  5. Oct 9, 2011 #4

    turbo

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    How about a minimum outcome in the case of access to quality healthcare, college education, etc?
     
  6. Oct 9, 2011 #5
    Your question is unanswerable since it is a Morton's Fork. If you change the question, you might find the answers yourself.

    For completeness, a verbatim copy from Wikipedia:

    Morton's Fork, a choice between two equally unpleasant options, is often a false dilemma. The phrase originates from an argument for taxing English nobles:

    "Either the nobles of this country appear wealthy, in which case they can be taxed for good; or they appear poor, in which case they are living frugally and must have immense savings, which can be taxed for good."

    This is a false dilemma and a catch-22, because it fails to allow for the possibility that some members of the nobility may in fact lack liquid assets as well as the probability that those who appear poor also lack liquid assets.
     
  7. Oct 9, 2011 #6

    Dale

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    If one group of people are going to be stripped of their earnings and another group of people given unearned money under the banner of "fairness and justice" then this is a question which must be answered. How is this just and fair?

    Btw, this is not a Morton's Fork, I am not presenting any false dilemma. I am merely asking for an explanation of the moral justification for something that is explicitly claimed to be morally just.
     
  8. Oct 9, 2011 #7

    OmCheeto

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    Is the following propaganda?

    My question is not rhetorical. Is the quote true?

    My apologies for missing the locked thread, but I'm stealing https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=3522652&postcount=3".
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  9. Oct 9, 2011 #8
    It is a Morton's fork since you present the wealthy as hard working, and the poor as lazy.

    Where is Paris Hilton, or a financial investor, hard-working, and what about your local teacher?

    Of course you're not going to kill-off all entrepreneurs to give their money to white trash. But that is never the question. You take some of the wealth to educate the poor, so your whole society is lifted.
     
  10. Oct 9, 2011 #9

    Dale

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    I am not particularly concerned about the level of benefit to the recipients, whether it is a "minimum outcome" or an "equal outcome". What I am concerned about is the moral reasoning behind claiming the "justice and fairness" of coercively taking something earned by one person and giving it to someone who did not earn it.

    Not all good ideas are just or fair, but if you claim that your idea is just and fair then you should be prepared to explain why.
     
  11. Oct 9, 2011 #10
    Already being done. Now what?
     
  12. Oct 9, 2011 #11

    Dale

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    I explicitly allowed for other possibilities:
    Again, my question is about the claimed justice and fairness. In what way are such actions just or fair? Not everything needs to be just and fair, but if you espouse unjust and unfair policies as a means of achieving some greater good, then you need to at least be honest with yourself that neither justice nor fairness supports your policy.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
  13. Oct 9, 2011 #12

    apeiron

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    An early day motion has been tabled in the UK Parliament on the issue of income inequality there.

    The EDM refers to the research of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Their papers are linked to here....

    http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why/evidence
     
  14. Oct 9, 2011 #13

    russ_watters

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    1. I reject the idea that there is a "reasonable" wealth distribution. It is common for prosperity to involve a stretching of the distribution, as if wealth distribution were like a rubber-band. We can see this with China's wealth distribution over the past few decades.
    2. I reject the idea that there is an inherrent "fairness" in a more even weath distribution. This is an assertion based on an assumption. It may sound good, but there is no logical reason to conclude that even = fair.
    3. I reject the idea that the American system favors the rich. Tax rates are progressive and handouts predominantly go to the poor. What separates the American system from other western systems is that it doesn't favor the poor over the rich as much as in other systems. But that just means that you (and others) are confusing a less positive with a negative.
     
  15. Oct 9, 2011 #14
    I agree. What about: All people are born equal? (Under God, if you want to add that.)
     
  16. Oct 9, 2011 #15

    russ_watters

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    It is fine to believe in that, but don't confuse that idea with fairness. You and Ivan (and it appears to me, most with that view) make the same mistake.
     
  17. Oct 9, 2011 #16
    Yeah, well. You take some of the wealth, and fix all problems not fixable by capitalism alone. Better health care, tax deductions for durable energy-neutral housing, money for child-care support, good infrastructure, public educational mass media. Stuff like that.
     
  18. Oct 9, 2011 #17

    russ_watters

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    There is a true fact contained in the quote, but the purpose of the quote is not the true fact, it is the opinion that that fact represents a failure. That's what propaganda typically is made-of: state a fact, then make a false or unconnected assertion about the implications of that fact. If people miss the connection, they may wrongly assume the opinion to be a Truth.
     
  19. Oct 9, 2011 #18

    turbo

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    I didn't say anything about fairness, so don't put words in my mouth, please. If all US citizens get access to decent preventive health care, costs for all of us insured people should drop, and the incidence of emergency-room use should drop as well - the most expensive medical care in the system.
     
  20. Oct 9, 2011 #19

    russ_watters

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    The quote from the Declaration of Independence is often misunderstood, so rather than just answer the question, I'll explain what it means:

    The US government was set up under the idea that all people should have equality under the law and should therefore primarily succeed in life on their own merit.

    So to answer the question: Yes, imo, the American system does a good job of enforcing equality under the law.
    But is that fair?
     
  21. Oct 9, 2011 #20

    russ_watters

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    If you weren't saying anything about fairness, then you need to reread the question you were answering and try again.
     
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