Why Decry the Wealth Gap?

Brad De Long delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU
Tue Jan 25 07:50:55 PST 2000

>I have a hypothetical question, relating to some of Brad's comments on
>China as well as this discussion. Suppose that a society had an equal
>distribution of income. Real GDP per capital could increase X% by
>throwing Y% into poverty. Much of the debate about globalization, the new
>economy, .... seems to reflect thinking about this question.

John Rawls has a lot to say about this. So does Ursula K. LeGuin in her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." Amartya Sen points out that democratic societies are inherently more egalitarian than, say, Maoist ones: mass famines haven't happened in democracies, while they happen with some frequency where the people do not elect the government and the press is not free. And the relative income gap between someone who has enough food to survive and someone who does not is very, very large...

Brad DeLong

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