Is there any justification for inequal distribution of wealth? Other than wealthy wanting to retain their position and others want to raise theirs?

To me it's pretty clear that in politics there are "hidden" biases beneath political ideologues. That they upheld some advantages, while "giving an impression of some benefits". That is, "vote us and get this", but "we also retain our position".

Some right-wingers argue for "freedom" and justice, while also perhaps hiding that "let us retain our position as the wealthy". Some left-wingers though feel that they have "something to gain" and argue that they should gain. In both views it seems that the inequal distribution of wealth is not a neutral thing. That it's not a good thing, because of this dichotomy between interests.

The naive view is that inequal distribution of wealth is natural, because people are differently productive. It's also an ideal, because in practice wealth can be acquired through unethical means as well. Also, inherited wealth is unearned, in a sense. It feels weird to justify that someone should earn inherited wealth, while others are okay being poor.

  • I am unsure what you're asking here, as there is no policy anywhere enforcing unequal distribution of wealth. It is a result of the economic system of capitalism, which is not inherently good or bad. It seems like you are asking "why does the right-wing (in what country?) generally support lower taxes on the wealthy", which would be an answerable question
    – Gramatik
    May 14 '18 at 18:34
  • @Gramatik No I ask, what justification is there for there to be poor and super rich. Not all rich btw make their own wealth, but rather it's passed down over generations. Borning into a super rich family is a lottery win, but is it ethical to have such benefits without having to do anything? Or is it moral to have people start poor, when others start rich?
    – mavavilj
    May 14 '18 at 19:19
  • 1
    @mavavilj - Huge thought questions like this should go to Philosophy. We don't really deal in abstract morality and ethics - only as they touch on specific policies or people's behaviors.
    – Bobson
    May 14 '18 at 20:30
  • @mavavilj that question has been answered in part here: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/30292/…
    – Gramatik
    May 14 '18 at 20:41
  • Let's take Elon Musk vs me. We both have the same education, we work in similar fields. Why should he be paid more than me? Simple: He creates lots and lots of wealth, he creates lots and lots of jobs, he's an incredibly effective manager, he takes calculated risks, and he knows how to schmooze. In comparison, I've created a tiny bit of wealth for my employers and have created a tiny number of jobs. Management is not my cup of tea, I do not relish working 16+ hour days, I'm a bit risk averse, and I'm only good (certainly not great or exceptional) at the whole meet & greet thing. May 16 '18 at 2:20

A very general question, so I'll try to give a very general answer:

  • When people work hard to create wealth, they should be allowed keep it. After all, they invested the sweat to make the wealth while others were lazy.
  • People need a society to live happy and healthy lives. So all people should contribute to the society according to their different capabilities.

When one principle is emphasized to the exclusion of the other, society is out of balance. You need both.

  • 2
    What about inherited wealth in your first point? There's no sweat.
    – mavavilj
    May 14 '18 at 17:16
  • @mavavilj, one could argue that the "keeping" above also includes the right to give it away, during life or to be executed at death. Or one argues that inheritance taxes are a good way how wealth can make the "contribution" I mentioned in the second bullet point. A question of balance.
    – o.m.
    May 14 '18 at 17:21
  • @mavavilj that particular question has been asked here: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/30292/…
    – Gramatik
    May 14 '18 at 18:29
  • 1
    One of the counter-arguments for the first bullet point is that people don't actually work individually to "create wealth", but that other people contributed, too. See e.g. the "You didn't build that" speech. There are also other factors outside of the invidual's control (e.g. pure chance).
    – user11249
    May 14 '18 at 18:44
  • 5
    In addition, "others were lazy" is a rather curious way of seeing things. For various reasons some professions are paid more than others. For example I get paid a stupid amount of money as software dev, even though I don't really work harder than many others with lower paid jobs. I used to work low income jobs after I left school, and I worked longer hours and it was a lot harder both mentally and physically. Regardless of whether or not these income differences are justified or not, I certainly wasn't "lazy".
    – user11249
    May 14 '18 at 18:44

Obviously, if you have a starting situation where everyone is equally wealthy, and one person consumes some of that wealth, a wealth difference appears. To maintain the equal distribution, the others would need to either consume as well, or else transfer their wealth to the consumer.

This leads to the Tragedy of the Commons, just indirectly so. Everyone is worse off because consuming wealth is favored over investing it.

Not my original idea; Churchill said it succinctly: "The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

  • 1
    Obviously, if you have a starting situation where everyone is equally wealthy is like stating if cows were spherical... How does an hypothetical statement that has not been verified in the recorded history of mankind become a justification of any kind?
    – SJuan76
    May 14 '18 at 17:42
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    @SJuan76: That was not my premise, that's the assumption underneath the question. I'm showing why that isn't a stable situation. And since it's not stable, it's no surprise that it never occurred.
    – MSalters
    May 15 '18 at 7:18

I think you really need to clarify just what you mean by 'justification'. Do you mean a moral/ethical justification? If so, you're in the wrong place. You should be asking the question on either the Philosophy site, or on the one for your religion of choice.

In the realm of practical politics, there are two obvious justifications.

First, people are generally attached to their wealth (or to the possibility of attaining wealth in the future). Any attempt to equalize wealth generally requires a revolution to establish the new state of affairs, with many deaths (including the revolutionaries, if they fail or lose the subsequent power struggles), and then requires a massive state secret police establishment to maintain it. See e.g. the Russian revolution and subsequent history of the USSR, or the history of Mao and the People's Republic of China.

Note that both of those (and all other real-world examples, AFAIK) failed to achieve equalization of wealth, they just redistributed the wealth to the Party members. And they failed in less than a century.

The second reason is economic. It is the differences in wealth that drive the economy. Few people would bother to work (especially at disagreeable but necessary tasks) if they were not impelled to do so. Profit is a good motivator, and can be implemented far more easily than say having a state police apparatus that punishes people for not working.

We can likewise see examples of this in the real world. Take for instance China. Under Mao, when redistribution of wealth was taken seriously, there was widespread starvation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward As China abandoned Communism (in practice, if not in name), it became an economic powerhouse.

PS: It might be interesting to ask the inverse question. Is there any justification for equal distribution of wealth?

  • 2
    If you read your own link, it clearly states that the famine during the Great Leap Forward was not due to redistribution of wealth, but because wishful thinking led to bad planning and to many wrong policies. But I mostly agree with the first part.
    – SJuan76
    May 14 '18 at 17:58
  • 2
    @SJuan76: But the goal of the planning, and of the regime which did the planning, was the redistribution of wealth, no? So I'll argue that the wishful thinking and the badness of the planning were expected consequences of the goal.
    – jamesqf
    May 15 '18 at 4:18

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