Economic Inequality Complaints Are Just A Cover For Anti-Rich Prejudice
ALL
In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance
by Yaron Brook | September 30, 2017
Inequality Doesn't Matter If We’re All Paid According to the Value We Create
by Don Watikins | October 18, 2016
Who Cares about Inequality?
by Don Watikins | April 28, 2016
Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
by Don Watkins | April 19, 2016
Economic Inequality Complaints Are Just A Cover For Anti-Rich Prejudice
by Don Watikins | April 14, 2016
Equality of Opportunity Doesn’t Exist in America — and That’s a Good Thing
by Don Watikins | April 06, 2016
Inherit The Wind . . . And Not Much Else
by Don Watikins | April 05, 2016
Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality
by Don Watkins | October 20, 2015
Religion in America
by The Editors | December 05, 2014
Religion vs. Freedom
by Onkar Ghate | December 03, 2014
Debate: “Inequality: Should We Care?”
by Yaron Brook | May 08, 2014
Economic Inequality: Who Cares?
by The Editors | March 25, 2014
Our Poverty Problem?
by Don Watkins | March 11, 2014
Is Inequality Fair?
by Yaron Brook | March 05, 2014
Government tries to do too much: Opposing view
by Don Watkins | January 26, 2014
“You didn’t build that,” conservative style
by Steve Simpson | December 09, 2013
Why Do 1.4 Million Americans Work At Walmart, With Many More Trying To?
by Doug Altner | November 27, 2013
Atlas Shrugged Is A Book About Pride In One’s Work, And The Success That Results
by Steve Simpson | November 08, 2013
Bernie Madoff, Steve Jobs, and Wall Street Greed
by Don Watkins | September 26, 2013
Justice Department should let US Airways & American Airlines merger proceed
by Tom Bowden | August 16, 2013
What Are The Search Results When You Google ‘Antitrust’?
by Tom Bowden | April 18, 2013
To Be Born Poor Doesn’t Mean You’ll Always Be Poor
by Yaron Brook | April 12, 2013
We Should Be Embarrassed by the Sequester Debate
by Yaron Brook | March 20, 2013
“Give Back” Is One of the World's Most Impoverishing Commands
by Yaron Brook | March 12, 2013
Capitalism in No Way Created Poverty, It Inherited It
by Yaron Brook | February 25, 2013
3 crucial lessons Ayn Rand can teach us today
by Yaron Brook | February 02, 2013
Capitalism without Guilt
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2013
President Obama Duels With Ayn Rand Over What Makes America Great
by Don Watkins | October 29, 2012
Why Ayn Rand’s Absence From Last Thursday’s Debate Benefits Big Government
by Yaron Brook | October 15, 2012
The Virtue of Employee Layoffs
by Yaron Brook | September 06, 2012
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Paean to American Liberty
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
President Obama vs. My Grandfather
by Don Watkins | July 30, 2012
The Dog-Eat-Dog Welfare State Is Lose-Lose
by Don Watkins | July 12, 2012
Changing the Debate: How to Move from an Entitlement State to a Free Market
by Don Watkins | July 02, 2012
Private Equity Firms Want Acquisitions To Profit, Not Fold
by Doug Altner | June 05, 2012
Opposing view: Celebrate private equity
by Don Watkins | May 29, 2012
The “On Your Own” Economy
by Don Watkins | March 09, 2012
What's Really Wrong with Entitlements
by Don Watkins | February 21, 2012
Happy Birthday, Ayn Rand — Why Are You Still So Misunderstood?
by Don Watkins | February 02, 2012
America Before The Entitlement State
by Don Watkins | November 18, 2011
How Did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Predict an America Spinning Out of Control?
by Onkar Ghate | October 31, 2011
What We Owe Steve Jobs
by Don Watkins | October 06, 2011
What’s Missing From The Budget Debate
by Don Watkins | July 12, 2011
Does America Need Ayn Rand or Jesus?
by Onkar Ghate | June 29, 2011
When It Comes to Wealth Creation, There Is No Pie
by Yaron Brook | June 14, 2011
It’s Time To Kill The “Robin Hood” Myth
by Yaron Brook | May 06, 2011
Using Ayn Rand's Values to Create Competitive Advantage in Business
by John Allison | April 04, 2011
In Defense of Finance
by Yaron Brook | February 15, 2011
The Tea Party Will Fail — Unless it Fully Embraces Individualism as a Moral Ideal
by Tom Bowden | January 21, 2011
How About Tax Reparations for the Rich?
by Don Watkins | January 18, 2011
The Guilt Pledge
by Don Watkins | September 22, 2010
How To Succeed In Business: Really Try
by Don Watkins | September 13, 2010
The U.S. Anti-Business Epidemic
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2010
Atlas Shrugged’s Timeless Moral: Profit-Making Is Virtue, Not Vice
by Yaron Brook | July 20, 2010
Capitalism: Who Needs It — Ayn Rand and the American System
by Yaron Brook | June 09, 2010
Apple vs. GM: Ayn Rand Knew the Difference. Do You?
by Don Watkins | March 02, 2010
Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays
by Onkar Ghate | December 18, 2009
Why is Ayn Rand Still Relevant: Atlas Shrugged and Today’s World
by Yaron Brook | August 10, 2009
The Corrupt Critics of CEO Pay
by Yaron Brook | May 2009
America’s Unfree Market
by Yaron Brook | May 2009
Energy at the Speed of Thought: The Original Alternative Energy Market
by Alex Epstein | Summer 2009
Is Rand Relevant?
by Yaron Brook | March 14, 2009
Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures
by Yaron Brook | November 13, 2008
From Flat World To Free World
by Yaron Brook | June 26, 2008
Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company
by Alex Epstein | Summer 2008
The Right Vision Of Health Care
by Yaron Brook | January 08, 2008
Deep-Six the Law of the Sea
by Tom Bowden | November 20, 2007
The Influence of Atlas Shrugged
by Yaron Brook | October 09, 2007
The Morality of Moneylending: A Short History
by Yaron Brook | Fall 2007
Say “No Way!” to “Say on Pay”
by Yaron Brook | May 22, 2007
Atlas Shrugged — America's Second Declaration of Independence
by Onkar Ghate | March 01, 2007
Pay Is Company’s Prerogative
by Yaron Brook | January 08, 2007
Religion and Morality
by Onkar Ghate | October 18, 2006
Net Neutrality vs. Internet Freedom
by Alex Epstein | August 16, 2006
Why Are CEOs Paid So Much?
by Elan Journo | May 11, 2006
To Outsource or to Stagnate?
by Onkar Ghate | August 01, 2004
Ayn Rand's Ideas — An Introduction
by Onkar Ghate | June 02, 2003
Capitalists vs. Crooks
by Elan Journo | July 22, 2002
Forgotten Heroes of 9/11
by Onkar Ghate | May 17, 2002
Religion vs. America
by Leonard Peikoff | 1986
The Sanction of the Victims
by Ayn Rand | November 21, 1981
Egalitarianism and Inflation
by Ayn Rand | 1974
The Moratorium on Brains
by Ayn Rand | November 14, 1971
What Is Capitalism?
by Ayn Rand | November 19, 1967
POV: What Is Capitalism?
by admin | November-December 1965
Is Atlas Shrugging?
by Ayn Rand | April 19, 1964
The Fascist New Frontier
by Ayn Rand | December 16, 1962
America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business
by Ayn Rand | December 17, 1961
The “New Intellectual”
by Ayn Rand | May 15, 1961
Capitalism vs. Communism
by Ayn Rand | 1961

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Government And Business in Voice for Reason
Government & BusinessCapitalism

Economic Inequality Complaints Are Just A Cover For Anti-Rich Prejudice

by Don Watikins | April 14, 2016 | The Federalist

In the wake of the endless controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign, it’s easy to forget that most of us rightfully pride ourselves on our opposition to racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of unjust discrimination. But we rarely even discuss another prevalent form of prejudice: the demonization and dehumanization of the successful. This prejudice is central to today’s chief economic concern: the campaign against economic inequality.

Not everyone worried about our economic challenges is bigoted, of course. There are real problems we all should be concerned about, whether it’s declining opportunity (especially for those starting at the bottom), slowing economic progress, the pitiful state of education, or the political favors bestowed on some businesses.

In our new book on inequality, Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, my co-author Yaron Brook and I address those problems and many others. But whatever one’s view of our challenges, nothing can justify the way many — including presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders — are treating those who have achieved economic success.

The Double Standards for Rich People

Consider just a few of the behaviors that inequality critics apparently consider acceptable when dealing with wealthy Americans.

Collective Judgments. Virtually everyone agrees we should judge people by their actions and the content of their character, not by the (real or manufactured) sins or shortcomings of other members of whatever group they happen to belong to.

Replace ‘the rich’ with ‘Hispanics’ or ‘women’ or ‘Jews’ in that sentence, and ask yourself: isn’t this precisely the sort of prejudice we object to when it is targeted at other groups?Regarding businessmen, for example, we should condemn those who lie, cheat, and steal. But we should condemn them as individuals for their dishonest and predatory actions. By the same token, we should praise individuals who earn their wealth through ingenuity and effort—not make them pay for other people’s sins.

Yet what we hear from today’s inequality critics is across-the-board denunciations of successful businessmen. Sanders contends “the business model of Wall Street” — which employees hundreds of thousands of productive Americans — “is fraud.” A headline for a Sean McElwee article in Salon tells us “Rich white people are ruining the planet.” Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett write in their popular book The Spirit Level that “Rather than adopting an attitude of gratitude toward the rich, we need to recognize what a damaging effect they have on the social fabric.” Replace “the rich” with “Hispanics” or “women” or “Jews” in that sentence, and ask yourself: isn’t this precisely the sort of prejudice we object to when it is targeted at other groups?

Dehumanization. Prejudice encourages dehumanization — it encourages demonizing “the other” so they are seen as less than human and therefore unworthy of respect. This is precisely what inequality critics are trying to do to “the one percent.”

To take just one example, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has claimed that rich Americans are “less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder” — they are, in short, “spoiled egomaniacs.” Well, if so, what concern should we have for their rights and their dignity?

The Wealthy Are People, Too

A common myth is that you cannot be a victim of injustice unless you are powerless or disadvantaged, or that an injustice is okay if it’s aimed at someone who isn’t powerless or disadvantaged. But those are nothing more than crude rationalizations for injustice.

Isn’t it an indictment of our society when good people are treated like villains?

We need to ask ourselves: Do we really think of rich individuals as human beings? Or do we view them as cartoon villains — one-dimensional stereotypes not dissimilar to the caricatures propagated by racists, misogynists, and Jew-haters?

When I discuss unfair treatment of successful businessmen, I almost always hear comments like, “Oh, boohoo. What do the rich have to complain about? Look at everything they have!” This reflects a crass materialism, which amounts to the notion that money solves everything, and that no one can be hurt by or object to mistreatment unless he’s poor.

But have we ever stopped to ask ourselves: What if a rich individual’s dreams mean as much to him as my dreams do to me? What if he wants to be respected for his achievements the way I want to be respected for mine? What if he has made himself into a moral human being — doesn’t he deserve respect and admiration, and isn’t it an indictment of our society when good people are treated like villains?

A Cynical Justification for Government-Sponsored Injustice

Exploitation. When prejudice gets injected into the political system, it leads to the government inflicting tremendous injustices on the victims.

All of it is aimed at erasing the knowledge that economically successful individuals are human beings and that exploiting other human beings is wrong.

More and more, our political system treats economically successful Americans as resources for “society’s” desires rather than as sovereign individuals with an inalienable right to their own pursuit of happiness. Witness, for example, the plans Democratic candidates have for this country. Free health care — paid for by “the rich.” Free college — paid for by “the rich.” Larger Social Security payments — paid for by “the rich.”

Of course, these demands are supported by the claim that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share.” Set aside the fact that affluent Americans bear the vast, vast majority of the tax burden. Do we ever so much as ask: Did they honestly earn their money? Did they gain it by dealing voluntarily with other people, through an incalculable number of win-win trades? Don’t they have a right to use their wealth to pursue their own hopes and dreams — the same way we each have the right to use our wealth to pursue our hopes and dreams?No, we don’t ask those questions. Preventing us from asking those questions is the goal of the demonization and dehumanization of “the rich.” Whether it’s President Obama dismissing individual achievement when he declares “you didn’t build that,” or Sanders claiming it is immoral for some people to prosper while others are struggling, or Barbara Ehrenreich arguing that, “To the extent that any demonization is going on, one can’t help thinking that the rich have been, perhaps inadvertently, asking for it” — all of it is aimed at erasing the knowledge that economically successful individuals are human beings and that exploiting other human beings is wrong.

Stripping the Rewards of Virtue

This is prejudice, plain and simple. What’s worse, it is not directed toward traits that have no bearing on a person’s character, it is directed at something that is in fact a moral achievement.

Business success — that is, making a profit through productive achievement, not special favors from Washington — is something that deserves our respect and admiration. As we argue in Equal Is Unfair, this kind of success is enormously difficult, and it is profoundly virtuous.

We live in an advanced technological society, and enjoy a level of wealth, health, comfort, and opportunity that our ancestors could not have dreamed of. What made it possible? The effort of producers, on every level of ability, but with the most credit going to the men and women of extraordinary ability: the inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors who drive progress — and earn a fortune in the process.

 It’s time we stopped saying “screw you” and started saying “thank you.”