The Impossibility of Income Equality

By Mike Tront

There’s an old William F. Buckley quote that I love – “I’m not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting that you believe what you just said.”  This is how I feel about people who claim to want income equality.  There are just too many problems with the idea that everyone should get paid the same regardless of their skill, work ethic, or contribution to society.  The problems are so numerous that I’m having a hard time imagining a person who truly believes income equality is necessary, or even possible.

Let’s imagine someone does believe this.  There’s a probably a few college freshmen who have never had a job in their life, whose parents pay for everything, that might hold this belief.  But they don’t count.  They still live in virtual reality.  I’m talking about an actual adult, with experience, who has been in the work force.  I have some honest questions.

Who gets the equality?

First serious question:  Is this income equality for everyone?  It wouldn’t be very equal if only certain people got the equality, right?  If I choose not to go to college and just get a nice, easy, low-stress job bagging groceries, or stocking shelves, do I get the equal pay?  If so, how is that fair to the person that worked their butt off in college?  The person that gets a job in a high-demand, high-stress field like a pilot or surgeon?  Or the person that gets a dangerous job like loggers and deep-sea fishers?  All these jobs have an enormous benefit to society, shouldn’t they get compensated more than me for simply bagging groceries?

If you’re advocating for everyone to get paid the same, but you concede that some classes of jobs should get paid more than others, then you’re not advocating for income equality anymore.  You’re advocating for free market capitalism!  In a free market, you get paid for the benefit you provide to your fellow people.  The more benefit you provide, and the more you help others, the more you get paid.

Do we all get paid the same every year?

Second question:  If you still believe that we should still all get paid the same regardless of our jobs, how do you factor in age in order to remain equal?  Let’s say we all get paid $50,000 a year, the person who is 50 years old will have 30 years of that $50,000 pay, but the person who is 20 will only have a couple years of that pay.  So the 50 year old will be vastly wealthier that the 20 year old.  That 50 year old would be able to have a much nicer house, a much nicer car, better food, better clothing, better vacations, etc.  How fair is that?

How will this new inequality be dealt with?

I guess this will be part two of question two:  How do we level things out since older people will have vastly more wealth than younger people?  Do we say that younger people should start out making $100,000 a year and gradually make less every year so things even out?  If that’s the case, it’s far from equal!  Now you’ll have some people making $100,000 a year and some people making $15,000.  Or we could simply tax older people more, but that would be the same thing.  They’d bring home less money than younger people thus making it unfair again.

What about investing and gambling?

Question three:  Would there be any form of investing or gambling allowed?  I’m assuming in this world there will be no such thing as investing.  After all, if you invest wisely you’ll make a lot more money than the person that doesn’t invest wisely or doesn’t invest at all.  The easiest way to solve this “problem” would be to ban investing.

How about gambling?  Same problem.  It would have to be outlawed in all forms.  We can’t have an option for someone to win the lottery or gamble their way into wealth.  That would be unfair to the rest of us!

What about people who don’t work?

Question four:  Do the people who don’t work get the same equal pay?  I’m sure you’d say that someone who has a terrible, debilitating disability would get the pay, but what about people who just say they can’t work?  People with back pain that can’t be easily verified?  Or people who have depression?  Or anxiety?  Or people who just claim they have these things?  Once we’ve crossed that bridge into people who have unverifiable injuries and disorders getting the pay, what’s going to stop more and more people getting their pay while not having to work?  Are we going to pay disabled people less in order to stop people from faking injuries or disorders?  We can’t do that, it would create more inequality.

Income equality is unavoidable and unsolvable.

Like most political issues, income equality is unsolvable.  There will always be people who have more wealth and income than others.  Even in a perfect system, the people who are older will simply have more due to the extra time they’ve spent alive.

This is how politicians like it though.  They don’t want to deal with solvable problems.  They need to pick issues that will always need their benevolent assistance.  This is called job security.  If problems got solved, politicians wouldn’t be necessary!

The only fair system is a free market.  You get paid for what you provide to society.  The more you provide, the more you get paid.  The less you provide, the less you get paid.  What could be more fair than that?


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