Why Decry the Wealth Gap? (Response to Doug + Nathan)

Brett Knowlton brettk at unica-usa.com
Tue Jan 25 11:09:33 PST 2000

Nathan wrote:
>Wait a second- we aren't adding poeple "with lower incomes"; we are just
>adding people who are employed in the economy. If the economy is creating
>employment patterns such that jobs on the bottom make far less than those on
>the top, that is a structural change in inequality, whoever is filling the

This is a good general point, but it doesn't address the question of whether or not the "original" population has a higher or lower real income, or what has happened to inequality within that group.

I'm not trying to imply or argue that inequality is a good thing, in any case.

>Most immigrants add more to the economy than they receive in wages and
>benefits from society (pretty well documented by the Urban Institute at this
>point) so the higher income -- or even steady income -- of the previously
>poor or median workers is possibly due to those very immigrants, so you
>can't analyze the economy in this static way.

All workers add more to the economy than they get in wages. Wouldn't the surplus go the those at the top? Wouldn't more workers tend to depress wages in general by increasing the supply of labor? Why would more low income workers in the economy tend to raise the median wage?

>With exploitation of those immigrants partly fueling the economic growth
>funnelling to the top, this argument blaming inequality on the immigrants
>entering the demographic analysis just seems very wrong.

There is no "blame" involved. Immigrants aren't responsible for the economic institutions they find themselves working in, nor are they responsible for being exploited. This is an idea you've injected into this thread, not me.

>For leftists, the problem of inquality is precisely the problem of


>and to in any way explain way inequality by the existence of a
>new additional exploited class is an odd statistical sleight of hand.

No. If Cox and Alm and others are correct (and I simply don't know, which is why I asked about it in the first place), immigration might merely explain why income inequality is more extreme even though individuals are, for the most part, better off. It is not _at all_ an explanation of inequality per se. For that you have to look at private ownership of the means of production, exploited labor, etc.

Doug wrote:
>My first reaction is the same as the last time you brought this up
>here - so what? Immigrants are people too. They have to obey laws,
>pay taxes, and live in this lovely society.

Why is this the first thing that jumps into your head? My question was a narrow one. It might come as a shock to you and Carrol, but you really can wonder whether immigration is a contributing factor for increasing income inequality and believe that immigrants are people, and that inequality is still a bad thing.

Anyway, I appreciate that fact that you addressed the question head on this time. I'll be looking forward to the LBO article you refer to.


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