Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Family Fortunes

Wealth does not redistribute itself naturally. It behaves like water (hence Newton referring to it as 'currency') and it can be transferred within tight groups that make more of it by rent-seeking and bulk-gambling behaviours. The only things that really redistribute wealth are onerous taxation, mass death, and bloody revolution.

These are the lessons of history.

It's therefore very hard to see how much redistribution will occur as a result of NOT doing any of these things. But modern ethical thinking is such that these things are unthinkable. Hence, modern ethical thought supports (although it does not condone) continued inequity and inequality in terms of wealth distribution.

There are other mostly-theoretical redistributors with limited historical validity, of course.

One such is a strong moral reform campaign premised on individual desire to give away one's wealth to those who are poor. It can happen. But there are few who will succumb to this admirable lust.

This is why Jesus said, "The poor you will have with you always."

Of late, I've seen many atheists or anti-religionists tell off theists and religionists for not practising their own preaching and solving the problems of the world. Well, two thoughts here. One: 'practise what you preach' cuts both ways. Two: what prevents the former class of discussants from nicking the loot of the latter? If they stand to profit from it, that's a clear conflict of interest — and if they want to, this won't stop them either.

Here are some old thoughts on inequality.

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