He’s done it again, with a sharp pen and elbow, Doug Wilson has wound me up. Fortunately for me, I’m right and he’s wrong. I think.
In this post (HT: Andrew Wilson) Wilson poses a thought experiment where you can double the incomes and welfare of the least but in doing do increase the wealth of the richest tenfold at the push of a button. He ends with this,
“This is your ethical “dilemma,” and part of your test is whether or not you even think of it as a dilemma. Would you refuse to push that button out of hard principle? Would you push it, but with a guilty conscience? Or would you, like me, push it while whistling a cheerful air, with your hat on the side of your head?
If you would not push it, or if you would push it reluctantly, then that urgent yearning for social justice that you feel all the time in your gut is not compassion at all, but cancerous envy. It is evil. It is a deadly sin that must be mortified. You don’t love the poor at all — you hate the rich, and you want to use the poor as a club. And why would this malevolent genie want to take your precious club away?”
On all counts I think Wilson is wrong. His over simplistic statements make too many assumptions and presumptions. First that poverty is an absolute and never relative, Wilson thinks he’s dealt with absolute poverty so everyone should be happy. But by massively widening and increasing relative poverty he creates plenty more problems.
Here are ten reasons to care about inequality, and five causes of inequality, one economist (HT: Freakonomics) who says, “There is perhaps some sort of failure in how our system is working.” For more on the ills of social inequality read The Spirit Level.
From my review of the above book, here is the result of greater social equality, “In more equal societies there is less crime so the money spent on prisons could be spent on education. In more equal societies there is less obesity and all its health related issues and the money could be spent on better transport and so on and on. Equality reduces crime, teenage pregnancy etc..and allows a society to continue to invest in the quality of life of the nation.”
What Wilson does is actually make a bad situation worse but pretend it’s better by simply looking at the bottom line. It’s the same reason that many millionaires don’t feel wealthy and why this commenter can say that someone earning $150k a year is struggling.
And lastly of course Wilson’s magic button has replaced the apostle Paul’s magic remedy: generosity. That it is the wealth of the rich (generously and freely given) that relieves the burden of the poor.
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.” (2Cor 8:13-14)
Which brings us to a more equal situation wouldn’t you say?