Richards & Bradley on Townhall.com
IFWE Visiting Scholar Jay W. Richards and Anne Bradley, Vice President of Economic Initiatives, published an op-ed on Townhall.com on the topic of income inequality, “Income Mobility, not Income Gaps.” The op-ed was based on forthcoming research by Dr. Bradley on the topic of income inequality.
From a Biblical perspective, Richards and Bradley point out that income inequality is not necessarily immoral as “diversity is woven into the very fabric of creation”:
First of all, not all forms of inequality are unjust. Rather, the Bible says that diversity is woven into the very fabric of our creation (Genesis 1:11-26). God has given blessings to all—it can rain on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)—but our gifts differ both in degree and in kind. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, a rich man gives his slaves different amounts of money, according to their ability. (Matthew 25:14-30)
“Justice,” they write, “has to do with what each of us is rightly owed. If what is owed is equal, then justice requires equality. If what is owed is not equal, then justice requires inequality.”
With the Biblical call to care for the poor, Christians should be concerned about income mobility of the poor, not distracted by the fact that there is income inequality:
Poverty—real, absolute poverty—is the problem. Gaps are a distraction. They seem unjust because we think, mistakenly, that an economy is like a cherry pie—if Paul gets a big slice, then Peter must get a smaller slice. But a “gap” doesn’t mean that wealth was transferred from the poor to the rich. In fact, it implies that the rich had to make others better off to become rich, that they had to serve their customers. Steve Jobs and his many well-paid employees didn’t get rich by stealing iPads from homeless people. Creating iPads made people better off than they were before both by creating a new product that was valuable and by creating jobs necessary to produce that product.
Wealth generation is the only antidote to poverty. So instead of fixating on gaps, we ought to ask: What is the level of flourishing of those at the bottom of the economic ladder? Do they have opportunities to move up that ladder, or are they trapped, no matter what they do?