Reader Feedback 04/03/2007

 

We received quite a few reader emails on our article "Toddlers in Detention." The factions were neatly split in half--here are two representative letters:

Calling Hutto a disgrace is an understatement. All Americans should be outraged and ashamed that our government has so lost its way in understanding the importance of maintaining fundamental human rights and dignity even for the incarcerated and especially for those innocents caught up in the system.

(John W.T.)

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Two culprits shoulder the blame: The parents who willfully caused this situation by illegally entering our country. The U.S. government who did not control our borders to prevent illegal immigration.

No crying towel for this schmaltzy sob story. Its controllable. STOP ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

(Bob J.)

For more opinions on "Toddlers in Detention," click here.

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We also heard some critical voices on Rick Sincere's article "Is Income Inequality a Legitimate Worry?" (Some are edited for length.)

The concept of inequality is only logical within an environment where there is equal--or reasonably equal--opportunity. If you have no legs and I challenge you to a foot race, you will lose and I will win. Expecting any other outcome is simply ignorant--we do not have to run the race to know that. Likewise, individuals who are malnourished, abused, uneducated, and without medical treatment are simply not able to compete as those who are not so disadvantaged, whatever economic system has been established by law. There is deep, deliberate ignorance inherent to any market economy where caring about the fate of the disadvantaged is officially denied, avoided, or declared to be unnecessary for philosophical reasons.

I have no doubt that some wealth inequality is an irreducible fact of a capital economy. However, that does not justify a lack of concern for those who will be left out of the race. The successful economy that provides a variation in rewards of wealth has its price, and it is no excuse for denying assistance to those who have been crippled from the start. Anyone who is serious about a philosophy which enshrines wealth inequality must also propose a means of supporting those who cannot compete--the maimed, underfed, psychologically disturbed, ignorant and ill. 

Whenever I read a piece crowing about the value of inequality of wealth without addressing social responsibility I know the argument will be incomplete--as yours is. And I know I'm hearing from someone who is well off and/or has above-average earning power. Without a proposal for and a commitment to establishing a floor for misery, your article is only half written. I'd like to read the rest of it, including the part where you explain why some of the wealth of a community that takes its economic philosophy seriously must also accept the need for "unproductive" support for the irreducible losers.

(John D.)

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In a political discussion, ask people to imagine in sequence that they are the richest person in the world, a person of exactly average wealth, and someone so poor as to be starving to death. Then ask:  Would you be better off, in some or one of these instances, if everyone else were in the same boat, wealth-wise, as yourself? This exercise always exposes the fact that no one cares about equality of wealth.

(Mary D.)

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If Von Mises has it right, then how come that the Nordic countries go on performing so well, not only compared to the rest of the world, but also in comparison to the other Western European economies that have somewhat lower taxes?

It looks like Von Mises mi(s)ses something.

A brief visit to http://www.nationmaster.com/statistics quickly shows that Nordic countries are consistently near the top, not just in GDP per capita but also in a lot of other statistics that measure quality of life.

My own explanation is like this. Income inequality can be a good stimulus for people to work harder and improve their personal situation. But beyond a certain level, more income inequality not necessarily means ever more stimulus. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

Once income inequality has reached a certain level, then still more inequality will not lead to even more motivated working citizens, but rather increase frustration in those who are on the not-so-good side of the inequality, and start producing undesirable side effects like increased crime levels. The number of people in jail per capita is about 10 times higher in the USA compared to these low-inequality Nordic countries.

What happens in high-tax countries that limits the inequality in their system? The advantage of income inequality is not removed, because inequality is not eliminated, only reduced and capped at a certain maximum. But part of that tax money is invested in maximum (free) education for all citizens. Part of it goes to free Medicare and other forms of national insurances, etc. In the longer run, this now seems to pay big dividends for countries like Sweden, Finland.

A better-educated and healthy population is more productive, especially in an information age. The entrepreneur finds a larger pool of engineers to realize his new money making ideas. And a less stressful life provided by some national insurance policies, perhaps leaves a more confident consumer.

Those are factors that can boost an economy too.

Von Mises' idea was correct in an age and time when there was typically a shortage of capital. But our current society is more a situation with a glut of capital and a shortage of skilled brains. So countries that tax excess capital and use it to boost education are now outperforming those who don't.

(Danny B.)





Posted 04-03-2007 11:49 AM by Doug Casey