John Stossel recently penned a piece titled Equality vs Liberty. In it, he argues that wealth inequality is not a serious issue. This post is the beginning of a lengthier response to him. It will be expanded into an opinion editorial. Quotations from Stossel will be used in both pieces.
It’s true that today, the richest one percent of Americans own a third of America’s wealth. One percent owns 35 percent!
But I say, so what?
Stossel is oblivious to the fact that control of wealth and property allows a person to dictate the terms of existence to another. A person with little money is more likely to have to work for a boss, because they don’t have the resources to survive otherwise. Inequality is by definition a phenomena involving subordination. When people aren’t relatively equal – command and control ensues. Individual liberty and equality are thus intertwined.
Stossel goes on to say:
Progressives in the media claim that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.
But that’s a lie.
Hollywood sells the greedy-evil-capitalists-cheat-the-poor message with movies like Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which portrays stock sellers as sex-crazed criminals. Years before, Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” created a creepy financier, Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, who smugly gloated, “It’s a zero-sum game. Somebody wins; somebody loses.”
This is how the left sees the market: a zero-sum game. If someone makes money, he took it from everyone else. The more the rich have, the less others have. It’s as if the economy is a pie that’s already on the table, waiting to be carved. The bigger the piece the rich take, the less that’s left for everyone else. The economy is just a fight over who gets how much.
But this is absurd. Bill Gates took a huge slice of pie, but he didn’t take it from me. By starting Microsoft, he baked millions of new pies. He made the rest of the world richer, too. Entrepreneurs create things.
Stossel is also unaware of the extent to which state intervention in the “market” props up established wealthy economic players. A genuinely freed market would not involve people getting wealthy at the expense of others, but we don’t live in such a society. A genuinely freed market would likely have a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. Not a perfect equality, but a substantially better one. This is what we left-wing market anarchists aim for.