From independence, freedom and truth


Is economic inequality unfair? (II)

Fernando del Pino Calvo Sotelo

February 4, 2015

Economic inequality exists as a result of the fact that humans are different and free. As we explained in the first part of this article, we are born with different talents and shaped by different environments and circumstances. The changing winds of luck sometimes blow in our favour and push us along happily; other times, strong headwinds require that we change courses. Finally, there is the great gift of freedom which allows us to change and recreate ourselves and also to react differently under identical circumstances. We also know that wealth, due to its intrinsic characteristics, is a variable that follows a profoundly asymmetrical exponential statistical distribution (like many other things in Nature and within the realm of human action). Therefore, the unequal distribution of wealth is not only inexorable but is completely natural and is not the result of abuse or exploitation by a very few. Let’s look at some examples.

The vast majority of writers who are talented and fortunate enough to have their works published sell only a few thousand copies at best. J.K. Rowling, however, has sold 400 million copies of the Harry Potter saga. Did she do something wrong? Is it unfair? Should she be punished for it? The vast majority of singers who are talented and lucky enough to record an album will only sell a few thousands discs. The Beatles, however, sold around 300 million records during their career. Is it unfair? Should they be punished? Most actors who are talented and lucky enough to land a role in a film never become famous. However, the films starring Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford have been seen by hundreds of millions of people all over the planet. Have they committed an injustice? The creations of the vast majority of inventors will never see the light of day and most businesses fail. Steve Jobs, however, sold millions of Macs, iPods, iPads and iPhones and Apple, founded in 1976, is worth 650 billion dollars today, seven times what Banco Santander is worth and ten times the value of Telefónica. These people, products of their talent, their circumstances, the luck factor and the decisions taken in the free exercise of their liberty are extreme examples of inequality. We need to ask ourselves: what is unfair about their success? Have they harmed society or have they enriched it?

Despite this, economic inequality has always been used to attain power by those who covet it. It is an easy and well-worn tool (they don’t need much more) for seizing and maintaining power. They fuel the flames of the worst human passions – greed, violence, ire, envy, dishonesty and pride – and they convince us to falsely blame others for what we are lacking. Rather than noble principles, our fallen nature is what makes us refuse to recognise the superiority of others in one field or another and to want to take what is theirs; it is what makes us refuse to accept that their reward may be fair and legitimate. In fact, we only forgive them, to a certain extent, when we believe that it was all a matter of luck. It has been expertly used by the totalitarian regimes of the last century (Fascism and Communism), the omnipresent Socialisms of western democracies and the most rancid and sinister Marxism-Leninism of the twenty-first century (mistakenly called populism) to flatter the people, to gain power and to hold onto it for dear life. The strategy is always the same: essentially it consists of finding an “enemy”, a scapegoat that can be blamed for everything, a minority that can easily be converted into the object of the envy and the ire that feed upon one another. That minority has varied in different places and at different times throughout history: sometimes foreigners were the enemy, other times aristocrats, other times Christians, racial minorities and Jews. The chosen minority in these times of economic crisis is probably the wealthy.

In the interest of equality, for example, there are proposals to tax income or wealth progressively, which to me seems quite akin to placing a ceiling on success, effort and talent. Would it be fair, for the sake of equality, to prohibit Rowling, the Beatles, Nadal or Jobs to sell more books or iPads or to prevent them from winning matches beyond a certain amount? Well, when the politicians and their ilk of economists and propaganda pushers (who thrive by getting along with the establishment) propose a taxation scheme that is abusive to “a few”, that is exactly what they are doing, because income and wealth are only the numbers of books, discs and DVDs sold or the number of tournaments won, multiplied by a price. Rather than stigmatising them for their success, would it not make more sense to value their talents, efforts and sacrifices, the wise decisions they have made, the obstacles, the closed doors, the rejection, the doubts and the fears they have successfully overcome? I understand wealth as the economic reflection of a service that is valued by society and I defend the idea that wealth which is obtained in a morally licit way, in an environment of freedom and under the rule of law is fair and that it should not be persecuted but rather protected. However, the manipulation of those who only aspire to satiate their thirst for power has taken root in our western society, particularly in the last century. Under the hypocritical disguise of equality, the West has decided to bury the Tenth Commandment and to institutionalise covetousness.

And what is happening in our country? Let me tell you! In the eleventh century (almost a thousand years ago!), the Arab historian Ibn Hazam wrote that in Spain “its inhabitants are envious of the wise man who rises up among them and achieves the mastery in his art (….) and if he clearly outshines his rivals (…) then they declare war on the poor fellow”. The feeling I get is that the only field where inequality is accepted as natural is sport. When two football teams, a tennis player or a cyclist take home all the trophies over a period of years, they are admired and cheered. No one, in the interest of equality, would be willing to penalise Real Madrid by demanding that they win two matches instead of one to obtain their three points, just as no own would demand that Nadal win by a score of 6-0 in order to be considered a victory.

In conclusion, would it be so terribly ridiculous, dear reader, to propose an equation that is very, very politically incorrect? Economic inequality = liberty = justice. I will conclude by citing a Spanish politician who thirty years ago, in an article published in a regional newspaper, praised the book, “Egalitarian Envy” (“La Envidia Egualitaria”) by G. Fernández de la Mora. In that article, the politician stated that: “equality always implies despotism and inequality is the fruit of liberty”. Surprisingly enough, the author of that sentence is our current President and just as surprisingly, for once I agree with him. What do you know!


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