Saturday, 12 November 2011

Relative wealth

Well, 'The Week' 5/11/11 is proving (ahem) a rich source of material for this topic! This blog entry is a response to "Viewpoint: Relative wealth".

1) "I know we're all meant to hate fat cats". I know this is hyperbole, but it's use at the head of this article could be a subtle way of parodying a righteous anger at inequality as being 'hatred'.

2) "I don't see why people who put up with footballers earning zillions resent chief executives for doing the same." Yes - but by this logic we should equally 'resent' both as the neither that it seems to imply.

3) "If you earn, say, £30,000 a year, you are among the richest 0.5% of the world's population. ... Would someone on £30,000 give up some of their relatively vast salary? I think not." Ah yes, divert attention away from fat cat salaries like £1m a month by focussing on something like the average UK salary. I think this is the slippery slope argument/fallacy. Once we've claimed that someone's £60m bonus or 50% pay rise is excessive, it is inevitable that we will finish up cutting in to more modest (in first world terms) incomes. Therefore (the inference is) we should leave the fat cats alone.

4) "All wealth is relative". By this I assume they mean something like the poorest person in a developed country is richer than most people in an undeveloped one. Whilst this is true (or true enough) what does it add? 'Proposition: It isn't right that x earns 500 times what y earns.' 'Response: Ah, but all wealth is relative.' It just doesn't make any contribution, even if it's a fact. It's just a rhetorical device - throw in a seemingly related factoid and see what happens - a kind of logical smoke bomb.

In an RBE, of course, we would create a world where human needs were met, and where jealously guarding one's current status relative to those further down the heap than you (the 99.5% on less than £30K in this example) would not make any sense.

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