Friday, June 14

Poverty and Justice... and Basketball?
Cool article over at Chalcedon- not written by me incidentally - analysing the relationship between poverty and justice. Here's a key phrase:

The underlying assumption, usually left unstated, is that the distribution of wealth that arises from normal property transfers (especially market transactions and inheritances) is unjust because some people wind up with more than others. Inequality and injustice are equated.

I wish there were some way to write across the sky that "Unequal" is not the same thing as "Unjust".

To illustrate: I love basketball. Back before my knees finally gave out, I would rather play hoop than eat. I loved everything about the game. I'm a white guy who used to have just enough juice in his tanks to dunk the ball during pickup games - if the stars were aligned and I timed my jump just right. In other words, I think I have actually dunked once during a competitive game in my whole life. I regularly dream that I am playing basketball and that I am a leaping, flying, dunking machine - think Michael Jordan in his prime or Kobe Bryant now. That is my absolute favourite dream and I hate waking up from it.

Now the fact of the matter is, as much as I love basketball, I was never a very good player and I am even worse now that I'm on the dark side of 40. As much as I would give to be as good as Jordan or Bryant, no amount of wanting to will ever get me to that level. When it comes to hoop, I am not now, never was, and never will be equal to those guys. But does the fact of our unequal skills imply some injustice has been committed? Of course not.

Yet if you translate the exact same argument into the field of economics and wealth, you will hear apparently sane people arguing that inequality equals injustice.


Here's the last sentence from the article, which I think summarises it nicely:

Welfare programs... enrich and empower the state to the detriment of all other institutions in society.

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