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Teaser

I’m going to try something a little different today.    This post will only be a teaser.  First, go here to read Rob Christensen’s column from Sunday.  Christensen notes the growing economic divide in America and references specifically some of North Carolina’s CEO’s.

 Next comes the teaser.  Consider this informal straw poll:

1)  Who among you favor freedom over equality?

Or…..

2)  Who among you favor equality over freedom?

Consider your answer to these questions, and why.  Then, I encourage you to make your case in the comments section below.  I’ll address the questions myself in an expanded post on Tuesday.

10 Comments


  1. James

    August 27, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I do.

    ………………………………….

    Seriously, I see not much to be gained in this sort of abstraction, just as I don’t see much value in John Hood’s column today about the evils of using force to drag money out of taxpayers. Pragmatism with regard to the realities on the ground has to play a role in answering the questions.

    Beyond that, you’re asking us to submit to the “tyranny of ‘or'” – which I almost always decline to do. In this case, my answer would have to be “it depends.” For example, do you mean equality of opportunity? Equality of income? Equality of net worth? Equality of happiness?

    And in the case of freedom . . . do you mean the freedom to avoid liability for nefarious actions through corporate personhood? The freedom to use drugs? The freedom to not work?

    ……………………………

    Christensen’s article hints at an important issue, but goes not nearly far enough. He leaves us with the thought that there is a solid and stable middle class. From all I can see, the middle is being pushed inexorably down, widening the gap and further co-opting the working classes to help enrich the ruling classes. As the middle and lower classes find themselves more and more exposed and indebted, the ruling classes gain more and more leverage. Free-market policy makers have a vested economic interest in perpetuating the existence of a permanent underclass. And they’re doing a good job of making that happen.

  2. krm0517

    August 27, 2007 at 9:41 am

    I favor Locke’s definition of freedom over Rousseau’s definition of freedom.

    I favor equality of access and opportunities over equality of outcomes.

  3. Jim Stegall

    August 27, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Freedom.

  4. Max

    August 27, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Here’s my response over at Red Clay Citizen. I welcome you to read: http://redclaycitizen.typepad.com/redclay/

  5. sturner

    August 27, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Thanks to everybody for contributing. James…I had the same thought reading Christensen’s column (“Today, we are a middle-class society.”) Not so much.

    Max…I enjoyed your post over at Red Clay Citizen (where I left a comment).

    I’ll post Tuesday morning on equality and freedom. Hope to see you there.

  6. Jim Stegall

    August 28, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Well I had hoped someone else would bring it up, but since no one else has, here goes.

    Rob Christenson errs in concluding that because people “at the top” now make even more than before we are all somehow worse off. Indeed, in a healthy, growing economy we should expect that the highest paid people this year make more money than the highest paid people did last year (they’re not always the same people by the way). Meanwhile, there will always be someone on the bottom (again, the cast of characters constantly changes).

    What Christenson sees as a growing economic divide is really a sign that the economy as a whole is growing. Obviously, if the pie is getting bigger, the distance between the top of the crust and the bottom is going to increase.

    But that doesn’t mean that the middle class is getting the shaft. Quite the opposite, since a growing pie leaves creates more opportunity for interprising individuals to leave the middle class and move up, and for lower-skilled workers to improve themselves and move into the middle class.

    What’s keeping the average wage down is the enormous influx of unskilled, uneducated labor willing to work for very little, a factor that is hardly ever mentioned in these stories about the “growing economic divide.” The figures Christenson cited showing a one percent decline in wages since 2001, adjusted for inflation, while top salaries soar, are a testiment to this economy’s ability to expand and produce more value without negatively impacting the average native-born working American.

  7. sturner

    August 28, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Jim…I’m sorry my post on this subject is not up yet. I e-mailed it early this morning, but apparently there are “technical diffuclties.” I’ll try to reach the blog administrator.

    I see two problems with your analysis. The first has to do with social mobility. As income disparity increases, social mobility decreases…so statistically speaking, if you are stuck at the bottom it will be harder than ever to advance. The enterprising individuals you describe will succeed in economies whether they are growing or not.

    Secondly, why do you write that “obviously, if the pie is getting bigger (the economy is growing), the distance between the top of the crust and the bottom is going to increase.”
    Would it not be just as good for the economy if the bottom 50% raised their income while the top tier remained stagnant? In fact, it would be better since more disposable income would be spent by the bottom tier, thereby stimulating the economy further.

  8. James

    August 28, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Steve, you fail to genuflect to the trickle down gods. That’s where you’ve gone wrong, sir. Everyone knows that a rising tide raises all boats . . . um, except when some of the boats have holes.

    And then there are those hard-pressed souls with no boats at all.

    But who gives a rat’s tail about them? Certainly not the ruling class, who make more money when workers are oppressed.

  9. […] My previous post was a teaser which asked the question “Do you favor freedom over equality? Or, “Do you favor equality over freedom?” […]

  10. Jim Stegall

    August 29, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    “As income disparity increases, social mobility decreases…”

    But that’s clearly not what’s happening in the U.S. today. From what I see, it’s easier to get ahead in today’s economy than it has ever been–the problem is getting people to take advantage of the opportunities society presents.

    As for your second point, (“Would it not be just as good for the economy if the bottom 50% raised their income while the top tier remained stagnant?”), can you point out any time in history (any country) where this has happened?

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