Monday, 7 November 2011

Inequality is only a problem because people say it is

As you know, I don't think wealth or income inequality is in any way at all a problem.

I am increasingly of the opinion, though, that people who endlessly use the media to tell the masses that they *should* resent the rich, are turning it into a problem.

C.f. the reaction in the rest of the media to this article:

Could there possibly be a mechanism through which wealth or income inequality cause social unrest without the media and the upper class using it to tell people they should resent rich people?

Over the last hundred years, the British people have known that there are people fantastically richer than them: film stars and celebrities. They're even featured in the media every day. But for some reason the tales of expensive parties and clothes entertain the masses rather than enraging them.

Maybe the people don't resent film stars because of the entertainment they provide (both through their films and through their actions as celebrities (being photographed at parties for Hello magazine)). But I suspect that the media could create a resentment towards rich actors if they wanted to. (Wouldn't that be funny?)

Perhaps people resent the bankers because they can't see what value the bankers create. But my guess is that it wouldn't be an issue unless the media made it one. The explanation that the bankers drew attention to themselves by causing the financial crisis doesn't work, because high salaries were not the cause of the financial crisis, yet people talk about reducing pay much more than they do about fixing the causes. I don't think people would resent bankers without the media.

(By upper class I mean people like Polly Toynbee and the entire "liberal elite". (I never liked the phrase because they're not liberals, but it's certainly clear exactly who it's referring to, and I can't think of an alternative that means quite the same.))

I was influenced by Comment #6 here:

"Here’s one issue: is this all about greed per se as our principled Dr Giles Fraser would have it, or is it just a political fight with bankers?

If it is really about greed, now there is one profession that frankly makes your average banker look like Mother Theresa. Have a look here: .

Robert Pattinson is apparently British. Never heard of him. Even Guy Ritchie is topping $1m a month. OK, directing is a lot harder work than acting (very hard work) but $1m a month?

Now we’re talking about real roll in the mud, face in the trough stinking hot oinking greed. Now personally, I don’t begrudge them the dosh if there someone willing to pay. It doesn’t bother me. But if ‘greed’ is the problem, then this lot are as greedy as it gets.

The fun will start if the Occupy mob start attacking the entertainment profession for greed. Front-row entertainment.

Especially seeing Ritchie getting stuck into his actor clients. And being such a man of principle, his ire cannot be far away."

"a political fight with bankers?" What is the true motivation?

Is it about creating an excuse to tax them (personally, and tax the banks) and needing to create public support for it? Or is it about just needing an enemy to somehow increase votes for the left? (Possible causal mechanism: it gives the left something to do and keeps them in the public eye. It gives them a policy to offer the people (which they need because they don't really have much else in the way of policy to offer the people).)

Or are they scapegoating the bankers for the financial crisis because it was really the politicians that caused it? (Using the bankers as a proxy.)