Monday, July 23, 2007

Opportunity over equality

Give my kids a chance to succeed and excel. Don't drag them down to be equal to everyone. But the American left is wrapped up in wanting equality - saying they do, anyway. They don't want their kids to be equal to ours! And where would they take us with this priority? Arthur C. Brooks in Wall Street Journal
The U.S. is a rich nation getting richer. According to Census figures, the average inflation-adjusted income in the top quintile of American earners increased 22% between 1993 and 2003. Incomes in the middle quintile rose 17% on average, while the incomes in the bottom quintile increased 13%. Over the 30 years prior to 2003, top-quintile earners saw their real incomes increase by two-thirds, versus a quarter for those in the middle quintile and a fifth among the bottom earners. Reason to celebrate? Not according to those worried that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer.... The National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey (GSS) indicates that in 1973, the average family in the top quintile earned about 10 times what the average bottom-quintile family earned. Today that difference has grown to almost 15 times greater. ... Sen. Hillary Clinton characterizes today's economy as "trickle-down economics without the trickle." She declares that a progressive era is at hand because of "rising inequality and rising pessimism in our work force." The general view among liberals is that economic inequality is socially undesirable because it makes people miserable; they propose to solve the problem through redistributive policies such as higher income taxes. ... What first made me doubt this prevailing view was that when I questioned actual human beings about it, few expressed any shock and outrage at the enormous incomes of software moguls and CEOs. They tended rather to hope that their kids might become the next Bill Gates. And in fact, the evidence reveals that it is not economic inequality that frustrates Americans. Rather, it is a perceived lack of opportunity. To focus our policies on inequality, instead of opportunity, is to make a serious error -- one that will worsen the very problem we seek to solve and make us generally unhappier.
After looking at studies...
The data do tell us that economic mobility -- not equality -- is associated with happiness. The GSS asked respondents, "The way things are in America, people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living -- do you agree or disagree?" The two-thirds of the population who agreed were 44% more likely than the others to say they were "very happy," 40% less likely to say that they felt "no good at all" at times, and 20% less likely to say that they felt like failures. In other words, those who don't believe in economic mobility -- for themselves or for others -- are not as happy as those who do.

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