The conversation doesn’t have to be rich vs. poor, capitalism or communism, equality over freedom.
E.A.: Extreme wealth inequality also leads to the de facto control of government by the rich (plutocracy), and so is incompatible with democracy. For this reason we need to disperse concentrated wealth through property and inheritance taxes, or even better, revise rules that allow excessive concentrations of wealth to build up in the first place. For example, stronger anti-trust regulations, particularly for banks, are probably worth investigating.
G.G.: Granting that equality is important, it would seem that freedom is at least as important. But aren’t the two in tension, since maintaining equality requires taking from those who have more and giving to those who have less? What do you say to those who think this way?
E.A.: Of course, taxes on income and wealth limit the freedom of those who would otherwise acquire huge shares. Still, that is only one side of the coin. The objection is like opposing stoplights on the grounds that they limit the freedom of movement of people in cars at red lights. Sure, but what about the people on the cross-streets, who can move more freely because cars have to stop? If we’re worried about how limiting wealth will affect freedom, we have to take account of how the freedom of people generally, across all social positions, will be affected by the limitations. More egalitarian distributions of wealth spread opportunity and hence freedom more widely and fully than systems in which wealth is concentrated in a tiny self-perpetuating class.
G.G.: Does this mean that you favor eliminating the capitalist economic system, which seems to be a main source of economic inequalities?
E.A.: No, I take for granted that private property and extensive markets will play indispensable roles in any modern free society of equals. This will generate some distributive inequality. Complete equality would require a command economy, which is incompatible not just with freedom, but also with equality. State Communism, for example, is a social hierarchy of domination and subordination based on party membership.
What’s Wrong With Inequality? http://nyti.ms/1JwZBKj