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Why Inequality Works

December 8, 2010

As terrible as it sounds, I feel that the most surprising and important lesson I have learned from this course is that inequality works.  Evidence of this is in the works of Burke, Marx (his failure to prove a case against inequality in a capitalistic society proves the opposite), and More.

To begin, in Burke and More, it is made clear that inequality has allowed for the specialties of individuals and for the success of many.  It is because of specialization that men have been able to thrive. If all men played equal roles in a society, they would all be stuck doing the same thing, or as Hannah More implied in The Village, we would all be in our backyards caring for home gardens. If all citizens were preoccupied doing the same thing then there would be no room for any kind of societal, governmental or philosophical advancement.

Although I am calling for a society where there is inequality, there must certainly be justice for all.  Inequality, as paradoxical as it may seem, can allow for the justice that is necessary for a democratic society. Especially, if you consider that inequality makes room for those who are most suited to be in power. This allows society to function close to its maximum efficiency. Those who are above average intellectually and socially are able to create laws necessary to keep society in line, and provide for the proper judgment making that allows for the justice of man. Such laws and judicial interpretations can allow for princes and paupers to face the same jurisdiction, especially when enacted by an indirect democracy.  It is better for inequality to reign, than for “Joe Six-Pack” to be calling the shots.

A modern society must be unequal in order to thrive, not only socially. but economically. Just look at how well Marx’s theory of communism plays out. It is terrible when it is applied. There isn’t equality, but a lack of motivation and justice. What country that has attempted such so-called “equality” under the name of communism or else has prospered? The only noncommunist, but “equal” societies would be in third world countries where the people survive by the means of hunting and gathering. Should westernized nations aspire to that? Men should be able to do what they’re best at, and develop a specialty. If we were all totally equal in the eyes of the government, citizens would become complacent and they would then loose their drive to create and innovate.

Inequality allows for man, government and business to specialize. Specialization creates means for excellence. When one excels, whether it is in a certain business or philosophy or whatever, it is further developed. When it if furthered, those who are involved prosper, and many other outsiders are able to reap the benefits. For instance, if Steve Jobs hadn’t spent his time specializing in computer science, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post up on my Mac, but instead plunking it out typewriter (okay that might be a stretch, but you get the idea). In end I am saying that inequality allows for creation and innovation. We are all far better off with it than without it.


  1. erikamir permalink
    December 8, 2010 10:49 PM

    First, I hope you just mean the economic inequalities of capitalism. If you do mean this, I agree. I wouldn’t dare work to just break even as the worker Marx describes, I want to make a profit. I know they say money doesn’t bring happiness but it sure makes life a lot easier. I couldn’t imagine all my life and not having monetary success. When individuals better themselves I also feel that they better society. I don’t agree with Burke on most principals but I do feel a capitalist society, under the conditions in which American is in, is the best type of society.

    • edabish permalink
      December 8, 2010 10:56 PM

      That is exactly what I meant. 🙂

  2. thacarter4 permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:19 PM

    You’ve addressed the upsides, or at least some upsides, of economic inequality but what about the downsides? There are countries full of poverty because of overagressive competition and greed, and even in wealthy countries there are still a considerable number of poor people. Specialization is great and all but isn’t human survival a little more important? Also you say that Marx’s ideas when applied are terrible without offering a lot of specific evidence, the Soviet Union lasted for a long time as a world power. I also think that Marx would argue that no government has applied his policies to date.

  3. chris070310 permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:37 PM

    Capitalism is by far the best economy for a society. In this type of economy everyone is competing for property, goods, and happiness. No, money doesn’t bring happiness to everyone, but through completion for money people are given the freedom to earn and spend money as they wish. Therefore, if everyone competes in life, there is economical separation based on hard work and dedication, showing the best man shall always win. It kind of ties to Locke argument stating that property is earned by hard work and determines one’s class in a society. As for America, our property is through money, it’s been said that the smartest and most hard working are always the wealthiest. Yes, this economy may stray the weak but the strong will always prevail and be happy, this is a dog eat dog world.

  4. jjkn09 permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:47 PM

    Inequality works to a certain extent. It gives people goals and aspirations. With inequality, there is an incentive for people to work hard and to strive for what they want to attain. This is unachievable within a communist society. It is unreasonable to believe that everyone will work to the same extent. Those who are hard working will not want to pick up the slack of those who are lazy. As a result, those who work hard will begin to start working less while those who are lazy will continue to be lazy. Communism takes a large amount of dedication and discipline in order to be achieved. However, people are often motivated by their private wills and hope to profit from their own personal labor. With communism, there is no higher standard of which people can strive for and therefore there is no incentive to work hard.

  5. Tony Zhang permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:49 PM

    I agree with thacarter4. I could argue with anyone that capitalism has failed just like communism has. I think as Americans, we have all been subject to government propaganda. I’m not saying that what Marx proposes works, but I think alot of what Americans like to quickly point out that the negatives of this and that of Communist countries, and then fail to realize the negatives of Capitalist countries as well. As thacarter4 pointed out, there are a considerable amount of poor people. Less money is spent on infrastructure and education. Health care is underfunded and not everyone has healthcare. In 2009, the average income of a family was only $49,777 (just a quick number I got off Wikipedia, not sure how accurate it is but for argument sakes I’ll assume it’s true). I know its better than a lot of countries but that is still not alot of money considering that it is for an entire family. In general, I think that a capitalist society is better than a communist society. However, each type of society has it’s holes. I don’t think the perfect society that Marx dreamed of will ever exist. To say that inequality is better is a statement I will agree with. However, to say inequality works is false in my opinion.

  6. December 9, 2010 8:52 AM

    It is an interesting idea that society could be capable of achieving justice while advocating inequality. I disagree with this theory. It has been proven time and time again that blantant inequality, especially that promoted by the government or those in power, greatly affects those who are inferior in a negative way. People are treated according to the value people place upon them, and those that are inferior are treated as such, having less value than others. Their needs are less likely to be met, if even recognized by society at all. Constantly providing equal opportunities to allow people to advance in society as they choose, will enable people to decide there own standing in society. Sure, it is not fair people mooch off the hard work of others and reap the benefits of another’s labor, but how should contributions be ranked? Who’s to say a lawyers work is more important than a community leader?

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