Income Equality: Undesirable, Unattainable
"While an equality of rights under a limited government is possible and an essential condition of individual freedom, a claim for equality of material possession can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers." - F.A. Hayek
When pundits and journalists talk about ideology, we get the impression that they're maligning the people they disagree with and using ideology to define an unfeasible dream that could never come to fruition. We hear the word thrown around during political debates as a means to discredit opponents and critics. The word is often used to end debates and declare whoever uses it first the winner by default. The word is seldom regarded as a positive description in modern political discourse. If we accept this definition of ideology just for the sake of argument, it's easy to conclude that the most ideological among us are those who advocate income equality.
Nothing is more unrealistic, unfeasible, and completely preposterous than the idea of income equality. There is no way that all individuals with varying talents and abilities could ever be equal. Furthermore, there's no reason they should be. If you believe this, it doesn't make you cold-hearted, callous, or evil. What it makes you is rational and highly reasonable. Unfortunately, the world of politics is rarely rational or reasonable.
Income inequality is an unsolvable issue. Rather than accepting it as inevitable or natural, politicians describe it as a problem. This problem of income inequality is vague and wide reaching. It becomes the driving force behind agendas that either have no intention of addressing the problem, or agendas that only make the problem worse. Income inequality becomes the fuel for ideological crusades. All of this happens in the name of some fantastical utopian dream that some are convinced can and should be realized.
To identify income inequality as what it really is would be heresy. The dogmatic ideals of this ideological fantasy dictate that anyone who refuses to adhere must be figuratively lynched. Much like how we're indoctrinated to divide ourselves into classes, we're told that income inequality is not only a problem but a serious injustice. Those who defend income inequality are not only opponents, they're immoral hacks looking to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Those who openly accept income inequality as a natural consequence of freedom are sent to the guillotine or excommunicated.
Leaders don't expect voters to dig deep and peel back all their empty platitudes. They expect voters to ingest only the thin, top layer of an idea. Blurting words like equality and justice is commonplace in modern discourse. Words like those tickle the innards of people who are down and out, depressed, and in what should be a temporary state of poverty. Actual substance is hard to find in modern discourse. Cheap emotional highs are the norm. Vague ideas of income equality are designed to acquire votes from the vast segments of society that are taught to feel like victims – not victims of their own mistakes, but victims of everyone else's success.
Between 2007 and 2009, the incomes of North America's most wealthy dropped by 36%. In comparison, the incomes of North America's 99% dropped by only 11%. Most of the income gains made since 2009 have gone mostly to the rich, as cited in recent news reports regarding the historic salaries of CEOs. It's statistics like this that give politicians the ammunition they need to drive their agendas.
Despite the fact that more people own homes, make six figure salaries, and take more vacations than 50 years ago, this clear level of heightened prosperity is dumbed down for political gain.
Unlike it was 50 years ago, wealth is no longer something that our children are taught to strive for. Wealth is immoral. There's a new dream that involves a utopian society where the rewards of innovation are removed and nobody has to compete to achieve their personal goals. In this new utopian dreamworld, the pesky notions of individualism and personal success are fully extinguished.
Of course, proponents of income equality will tell you that all of this is untrue. They're not seeking to achieve an egalitarian society where income equality is mandated, managed, and regulated by government. But if income equality is a goal, what other way could there possibly be to achieve it? If true income equality isn't a goal, then why are they even talking about it?
In a free society, equality is impossible. The only way equality of any kind can be achieved is through control, coercion, and force. Letting people live, earn, and spend as they choose actually enables inequality. In a free world, inequality isn't an evil, it's a virtue. It's the competition between these unequal people and groups that spurs change, innovation, and progress. The unequivocal fact that some people are smarter or better at other things is what makes us human and what drives evolution.
As Ludwig von Mises explained, the total that is available for distribution in a society is dependent on our ambitions to produce it. The only reason we have so much product and wealth is because of the opportunities we've been given to produce and profit in a free market. With less incentives, we get less product and less profit, making the amount available to redistribute very insignificant. A society with mandated income equality is a society where everyone is equally impoverished.
The only place for equality in a free society is within government. As an entity that is funded by and dependent on taxpayers, all governments have a responsibility to treat individuals as equals. By intervening in certain matters and putting limits on any individual's success, a government is favouring one group or person over another. This contradicts the very idea of equality from the get-go and turns any rhetoric about equality into an oxymoron. Ironically, most governments that strive to achieve economic equality actually create a larger gap between the rich and the poor with misguided policies. Corporate welfare, progressive taxes, and Affirmative Action are good examples of such detrimental policies. Such policies don't just open the door to class division, they open the door to racial and ethnic division.
A government must first acknowledge that the people beneath it are equals. Then, the government must drop the shackles and let inequality reign. Free competition will drive the world. A government's only job becomes that of protecting all individuals from force, coercion, fraud, and violence – regardless of race, class, or religion. That's what true equality should mean in a free society.