Sunday, November 21, 2010

Income Inequality

Don Boudreaux makes an excellent point on income inequality.

Will Wilkinson’s essay on income inequality in America is splendid (“This ain’t no banana republic,” Nov. 19).” In it, Mr Wilkinson correctly challenges New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s claim that “the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States” than in several countries of Latin America. Rich Americans, Mr Wilkinson rightly points out, overwhelmingly are business people who serve the middle-classes and not political, military, or ecclesiastic predators who steal from peasants.

This fact makes Mr Kristof’s claim that wealth is “controlled” in America highly misleading.

The left insists that business (usually referred to as the evil corporations) have too much power in America. But they don't -- they have influence, to be sure; but no power.

Bill Gates, for example, has no power over me. He cannot take my house, he cannot order me thrown in jail and he is unable to have me fired. I, in turn, am under no obligation to buy his products. Any relationship I have with Mr. Gates is purely voluntary and can only work to our mutual benefit.

For example, I've recently chucked Microsoft Office in favor of OpenOffice -- it's free and, for what I need to do, just as good. I do, on the other hand, still run Windows. That might change, Linux (also free) is appealing but there are drawbacks to it, too.

The fact that about a billion other people still stuff their machines with Microsoft products, greatly enriching Bill, is of no concern to me at all. He's earned it.

That people worry over stuff like income inequality perplexes me.

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