I been reading YouTube comments and many of them were saying how the United States is less equal than other countries in the world. This is true. But I do not see what this has to do with anything. The people who generally make this kind of argument identify themselves as socialists and say that under socialism people are more equal. But what these people never do is explain why equality is virtuous.
Let us suppose that there is nothing in equality which makes it virtuous. And there is nothing in inequality that makes it evil. Then determining which countries are better or worse by looking at equality and inequality rates is a meaningless task, it does not tell us anything valuable.
I agree with these people that the United States has high inequality rates. I would also argue that a hundred years ago when some people (who are demonized as the "robber-barons" today) were extraordinary wealthy there was way more inequality back then then there is today. I do think that the United States has been among the top countries in its inequality. But my question is so what?
Equality is a funny word. When you say "I stand for equality", it sounds great and wonderful. And when you say, "the United States has less equality than European countries", it sounds like a negative trait of the United States. I do not know what it is. There is just something about the word which make it sounds automatically virtuous.
But I never hear arguments why equality is a virtue. It is just a given to us. Something I must accept as good and anything which goes against equality must automatically be evil. My question is very simple. Why is equality a virtue?
What really seems to be important is not equality or inequality within a country but the standard of living within this country. The question should not be "is there a high degree of equality?", rather it should be, "what are the living standards of the citizens?".
Think back 150,000 years ago when life was brutish and short, miserable and poor. The hunter-gatherer had a terrible life. His standard of living was far worse than any other place in the world today. But all the hunter-gathers were equal! From all over the world. There was no one great industrial hunter-gatherer. They were all poor. All equally poor.
Can one possibly say that it is better to live as a hunter-gatherer, with close to perfect equality, than it is to live as an average US citizen with astronomical inequality? The case is clear. Equality is not relevant in this discussion at all. What matters is the standard of living. The living standard in the US is better than in the savanna, and that is all what matters in determining which country is better to live in.
Consider a more relevant example today. Suppose that the United States the average rich income is 500,000 a year and the average poor income is 30,000 a year (I just made these numbers up for the sake of illustration, I may be totally off here). Let us also suppose that in France the average rich income is 35,000 a year and the average poor income is 10,000 a year. Certainly, France is more equal than the United States. But why does this matter. Just look at the standard of living. Is it not clear that in the United States the poor have it almost as well off as the rich in France? Then does it not follow that that United States is preferable to France in this example?
It does not matter if the rich keep on getting richer if the poor are getting richer also. Even if the rich are getting richer at a faster rate than the poor (which must happen for basic mathematical reasons) it does not matter if the standard of living of the poor continues to increase as well.
Let us return back to the US France example above. In France the citizens are much more equal, but they are equally poor when compared to the United States. Which is better? A higher standard of living with high inequality, or people being equal but equally poor?
Furthermore, it is impossible to have an equal society if its members are not prevented from success and failure. People are not actually equal. People look different, have different ideas, have different beliefs, have different desires, and have different talents. There is no way to have a free society where people can interact with one another how they please, where they can buy and sell as they please, and express their talents as they please, and at the same time have equality. Some people are much smarter. Some people are much more talented. Some people are much more artistic. Some people are much more beautiful. Inequality all around us. And there are other people, the entrepreneurs, who have their own skills. Being able to run a business and make lots of money is a skill like anything else. Some people are very skillful at doing this. In a free society these people would be much more successful than other people who do not have their skills. And henceforth these entrepreneurs would be much more wealthier than other people around them. This is why inequality must always exist in a capitalist economy, to a large degree in fact.
The only way to negate this inequality is by negating equal of rights (and equality before the law). The kind of equality that I truly care about is equality of rights, not equality of results. What the advocates of equality want is equality of results. But under a system that fixes an amount the skillful entrepreneur can make is treating the entrepreneur differently from how it treats a common worker. The entrepreneur is legally punished for being too good for everybody. While everyone else goes unpunished. This is inequality of rights. The rights of the entrepreneur are treated differently from the rights of everyone else. The only way to attain equality of results is by sacrificing equality of rights. So not only do I see the measure of equality as meaningless I see it as vile. Because such a measure implies the negation of equality of rights, which is actually important.
So the whole equality argument does not get to me. I see it as a meaningless measure. It is a good tactic for politicians though. Just talk about equality and appeal to the passions of the people. That certainly has a lot of support and votes behind it. But from what I see the equality issue is unimportant, in fact even undesirable for it negates the equality of rights.