Most facts confuse socialists; they prefer to deal in emotions. But the historical fact is that inequality is not “yawning,” exploding or any of the other hyperbole that socialists want to use to describe it. It has grown slightly in the past generation but is still about half what it was in 1900.
The real question is, do people want to be wealthier or more equal?
The poverty rate in the US is currently around 13%, depending on who measures it. Yet the poorest fifth of Americans are wealthier than the middle fifth in Europe. Shouldn’t the poor in the US be excited about it? A minority of them are, as their voting indicates. But for the majority of the poor and all socialists, who are among the wealthiest people in the history of mankind, being richer than the other 99% of people on the planet isn’t enough. They can’t allow anyone to be richer than they are. That is the definition of envy.
Americans used to not indulge envy. The Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote that there was less envy in the US than in Europe, according to Gunnar Myrdal and America’s Conscience by Walter A. Jackson:
“Luck, ability, and drive in others are more tolerated and less checked in America,” he would note. “Climbing is more generally accepted…outstanding individuals are permitted to have wide space for their initiative according to the great American tradition.”
Envy wouldn’t be a problem if the mainstream media, intellectuals, and socialist politicians didn’t inflame it and if the state didn’t control so much of our lives. In 19th century America the envious were shunned and led quietly desperate, angry, small lives. Today, intellectuals have made envy a virtue, the media fans the flames and politicians promise to unleash the seven-headed dragon of the state to crush any successful person so that their voters can get drunk on their envy.