When the Rich Get Even Richer

Stephen E Philion philion at hawaii.edu
Wed Jan 26 11:25:47 PST 2000

A series of letters written in response to the "Why Decry Wealth" article published in the NYT two days ago:

January 26, 2000

When the Rich Get Even Richer


To the Editor:

W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm ask, "Why Decry the Wealth Gap?"

(Op-Ed, Jan. 24).

First, inequality is correlated with political instability, one of the

strongest findings of cross-national research. Second, inequality is

correlated with violent crime. Third, economic inequality is

correlated with reduced life expectancy, shown by a large and growing

body of public health research.

A fourth reason? Simple justice. There is no moral justification for

chief executives' being paid hundreds of times more than ordinary

employees. Social policies that reduce inequality, like progressive

taxation and living wages, should be strengthened and expanded for the

health and well-being of those not at the top of the pyramid.


Ogden, Utah, Jan. 24, 2000

The writer is an assistant professor of sociology, Weber State



To the Editor:

Re "Why Decry the Wealth Gap?" (Op-Ed, Jan. 24): Americans need to

make a public choice about the standard of living that we believe the

least among us should enjoy.

We should be able to reach a consensus -- rough and fractious, to be

sure -- on minimal acceptable levels for housing, nutrition, health

care, education and other essentials.

Most of us will live well above those basic standards, and that likely

reflects personal qualities and good fortune rather than injustice.

We can also pursue voluntary actions and public policies to make sure

that our neighbors remain part of the community by not dropping below

those minimal levels.


New York, Jan. 24, 2000

The writer is a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, CUNY.


To the Editor:

W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm (Op-Ed, Jan. 24) assert that artificial

efforts to curb inequality do more harm than good and that Americans

ought to care more about growth than inequality. But this overlooks

the fact that people of wealth and privilege are in a position to pass

great advantages on to their children, while the children of the poor,

lacking in resources, fall further behind.

Would Mr. Cox and Mr. Alm consider Social Security an "artificial"

attempt to curb inequality? It is one of America's most successful and

popular programs. Do they think more good would be done by eliminating


One by-product of economic inequality is its debilitating effect on

social cohesion. Studies show that states and nations with great

inequality often have reduced levels of social involvement and trust.

These, in turn, are correlated with higher rates of illness and death.


Upper Montclair, N.J., Jan. 24, 2000

The writer is coordinator of the Institute for Community Studies,

Montclair State University.


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