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December 15th, 2017

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The Inequality Problem

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published Jan. 2, 2015

 The Inequality Problem
In discussing Thomas Piketty's book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" Bill Gates said he basically agrees with Piketty's most important conclusions, that "Inequality is a growing problem and governments should play a role in reducing it." By "inequality" I'm pretty sure he is referring to wealth discrepancy among people.

Far be it for me to second-guess Gates' personal philosophy regarding wealth inequality or how he would like government to "play a role in reducing it" but Mr. Piketty closes his book by recommending that governments step in now, by adopting a global tax on wealth, to prevent soaring inequality contributing to economic or political instability down the road.

That sounds awfully close to government redistribution of wealth to me, which is no answer to the problem that Gates alludes to. As a general principle, taking from people who make money to give to people who don't is a bad idea. Giving to charity is different; we should all give what we can, but institutionally mandated redistribution is wrong.

Wealth inequality is as old as mankind. I would bet that even before money came along, some cavemen collected more nuts and berries than other cavemen. Some of those guys did it because they were smarter than the others, like maybe they knew where to look for the best nut trees and berry bushes. Some cavemen probably were more ambitious than others, willing to get up earlier and work harder to find the stuff. The cavemen who slept in, who didn't want to work so hard, had less.

Liberals will have a conniption fit over this, but I'm sorry to say that all people can never be financially "equal." Some of us are smarter, some of us are better looking, some of us are harder working, some of us have more ambition, and some of us were lucky enough to be born into wealth. That's life.

There are three aspects to becoming a financial success in this country: intelligence, ambition, and hard work. There's also serendipity, but since no one can control that, it doesn't really count. Intelligence differs with the individual of course, but it can be improved upon with education. Likewise, the amount of ambition a person has also differs, but it can be cultivated and encouraged. There's nothing easy about hard work, you just need to do it and keep on doing it.

Everything else being equal, a poor kid who stays in school, studies hard, has ambition and is willing to work hard can definitely be successful in America. I absolutely believe that. This formula has worked for millions of people throughout our history. There's no magic pill, and no amount of governmental assistance can help a person who doesn't have the desire to help himself.

And according to people who study these things, when uneducated, poor people suddenly are given a lot of money; they are unable to hold on to it for very long. Wealth will eventually end up back with the people who created it in the first place. Simply giving non-working people money will not make them "equal" to those who work.

There can never be true income equality for people; there will always be people with more money than others. But there is a way for people to improve their lot in life if they are willing to do the hard stuff it takes to get there. That means poor kids need to stay in school. There's less likelihood that uneducated people will succeed in life.

Government isn't the way to do this thing, either. As much as it might sound corny, it all begins with parents. A mother and a father teaching their children social skills, moral values, hard word, and stressing the importance of a good education. These are basic things that even the poorest of parents can give their kids.

I don't know about Bill Gates. I don't know if he was born into money which helped him get his start, or if he did it all himself. But I know there are plenty of people who had absolutely nothing and became rich through education, ambition, and working their tails off. It's not just a slogan; America has always been the land of opportunity if you are willing to try for it. Does that mean that every single person will get rich? No. But it means that every single person has the opportunity to try. And that's the best anyone can ask for.

Income redistribution will never work and will only make matters worse for everybody.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's also a Southern California-based freelance writer.

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