Income Inequality "Notable Quotable"

by Laura Ehrenberg-Chesler on July 17, 2014

in Employment,lifestyle,politics

Regardless of where you stand on the “income inequality” debate, this “Notable Quotable” from the “Wall Street Journal” makes an interesting point, and one that is worth contemplating.

Economist Donald Boudreaux in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Dec. 25:

Suppose that Jones

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chooses a career as a poet. Jones treasures the time he spends walking in the woods and strolling city streets in leisurely reflection; his reflections lead him to write poetry critical of capitalist materialism. Working as a poet, Jones earns $20,000 annually.

Smith chooses a career as an emergency-room physician. She works an average of 60 hours weekly and seldom takes a vacation. Her annual salary is $400,000. Is this “distribution” of income unfair? Is Smith responsible for Jones’ relatively low salary? Does Smith owe Jones money? If so, how much? And what is the formula you use to determine Smith’s debt to Jones?

While Dr. Smith earns more money than does poet Jones, poet Jones earns more leisure than does Dr. Smith. Do you believe leisure has value to those who possess it? If so, are you disturbed by the inequality of leisure that separates leisure-rich Jones from leisure-poor Smith? Do you advocate policies to “redistribute” leisure from Jones to Smith—say, by forcing Jones to wash Smith’s dinner dishes or to chauffeur Smith to and from work? If not, why not?

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