Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Frankfurt On Ineqaulity

The previous post about global and national inequalities reminded me of this old chestnut from Harry Frankfurt. Frankfurt argues that it is not morally desirable that everyone has equal resources. It's morally desirable that each has enough. In his words:
Mere differences in the amounts of money people have are not in themselves distressing. We tend to be quite unmoved, after all, by inequalities between those who are merely well-to-do and those who are extremely rich. 
If we believe of some person that her life is fulfilling, that she is content with her economic situation and that she is not troubled by any resentments or sorrows that more money could assuage, we are not ordinarily much interested — at least, from a moral point of view — in a comparison of the amount of money she has with the amounts possessed by others. The fact that some people have much less than others is not at all morally disturbing when it is clear that the worse off have plenty.
In other words, if everyone had a Mercedes and one guy had a Ferrari, it would not make much sense to describe this as a terrible state of affairs.

I'm not too sure about this argument. For instance, based on an argument of this sort, could one find it acceptable that the economic growth in a country mostly benefits the top %1 on the basis that the bottom %99 percent "have enough"?

Of course, I'm also not sure that Frankfurt's argument has this implication or what Frankfurt thinks about economic inequalities in the world in a more practical sense.

Remember from the previous post that the Western Middle Class actually have more than the Asian middle class. So, can we say that the Western Middle Class should not be bothered about the rising inequality because they have "enough"?

Note also that, perhaps sadly or irrationally, people's happiness depend more on their relative wealth than their absolute wealth.

There is something fishy going on; I do think that Frankfurt must be mistaken somewhere but I'm not too sure I can flesh it out. 

For Frankfurt's original paper, see here.

No comments:

Post a Comment