Sunday, November 27, 2016


Our final topic is economic inequality.  Is economic inequality something to worry about? Is equality ideal?  We will be looking at three different answers (Frankfurt, Rawls, Nozick).  But first we'll get some background.



(1)  How much economic inequality is there in the US?

Inequality for All (movie)

Watch 0-21 and then 45-49.

(2) How does economic inequality in the US compare to the economic inequality within other countries?
2014 Gini Index World Map, income inequality distribution by country per World Bank
WIKIPEDIA.  The map shows the Gini Index (in %) of income worldwide, according to latest published data by World Bank in July 2014. Data Source: Table 2.9 of World Development Indicators: Distribution of income or consumption The World Bank (2014) Gini index is a measure of income inequality. A nation where every individual's income is equal would have a gini index of 0. A nation where one individual gets all income, while everyone else gets nothing would have a gini index of 100. Higher gini index for a nation means more income difference between its people. The average of Gini index scores in this map is about 40. All countries color coded in green have gini index scores less than 40, while those in shades of red have gini index above 40.

(3) How does GDP per capita vary between countries?

GDP per capita (nominal) 2015


Harry Frankfurt, "Equality as a Moral Ideal"

Economic Egalitarianism:  "the doctrine that it is desirable for everyone to have the same amounts of income and of wealth (for short, 'money')." (p. 1027)

The Doctrine of Sufficiency: "what is important from the point of view of morality is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough. If everyone had enough, it would be of no moral consequence whether some had more than others." (p. 1028)

He argues that Economic Egalitarianism is not only false but harmful.  He argues for the Doctrine of Sufficiency.


Why does Frankfurt think Economic Egalitarianism is harmful?

Frankfurt tries to show that Economic Egalitarianism is false by rebutting various arguments for it.

  1. Fraternity argument: with more equality, there is more brotherly/sisterly love.  Frankfurt's rebuttal:____________
  2. Diminishing utility argument: redistributing wealth more equally increases aggregate happiness because a poorer person gets more benefit from $1 than a richer person.  Frankfurt's rebuttal:___________
Can you think of any better arguments for Economic Egalitarianism?  Why does it matter for wealth to be fairly equally distributed?  Does it matter?


The Doctrine of Sufficiency--when is enough enough?  
  1. Having enough doesn't mean having an amount such that any more would be too much.
  2. Having enough does mean being contented, so that having more money doesn't "arouse ... any particularly eager or restless concern." (p. 1033)  

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