Do I Deserve What I Have? Part I

“Later I got to thinking. Is there anything just or fair about the differences between Bianca and me, between her son and my children? And the answer is, of course not. I don’t deserve the comfortable life I have relative to hers. Oh, I can fool myself and talk about the time and effort it took to attend graduate school, but as I outlined above, there was so much luck in all of that.

I can cook up a story that makes the differences between Bianca and me seem more fair than they are, the kind of story economists tell about why some jobs pay a little and some pay a lot. Those stories are true, I think, as far as they go. My skills are much more valuable than Bianca’s. A lot of people can shine shoes. Not as many people can learn enough economics to explain it to people and help them understand it. The demand to understand economics is much greater than the demand for shined shoes. I have a lot more human capital. I have a Ph.D while Bianca probably didn’t finish college. She may not have finished high school.

All of that is true. All of that explains my higher standard of living. But it doesn’t justify that higher standard of living. She may be a much better person than I am, a better mother than I am a father, a better spouse than I am. I don’t know. But it is strange that because of the luck I describe above, I earn a lot more than Bianca.

All of which is to say that there is a case to be made for taking a lot of the money I earn and giving it to Bianca. A $10 tip is nice, but it’s a drop in the bucket of what it takes to even the score or get close to making our life experiences a little more equal. Of course the federal and state and local governments already takes a lot more money from me than they take from Bianca. And it probably gives a chunk to her. She may be getting the earned income tax credit. Her son probably goes to a public school while my children didn’t. Maybe she is on Medicaid. Maybe she gets food stamps. But surely you can make a case that the government should take a lot more from me than it currently does from people like me who have relatively easy lives and give it to Bianca and those in a situation similar to hers.

So what’s wrong with that?

“What’s wrong with real socialism? Given the injustice or at least non-justice of the current state of the world, why not strive for something dramatically more redistributive? Why not take the justice argument seriously?

I’ll give that a shot in Part II of this essay.”

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