In the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Sanders lost to Mrs. Clinton on all the major issues except income inequality, as reported in the WSJ (gated):
The pollsters asked caucus-goers to choose one of four issues that mattered most to them in voting for a candidate. Mrs. Clinton easily won on health care, terrorism, and even the economy and jobs (51% to 42%). But Mr. Sanders won big on the fourth issue: income inequality, which 27% of voters said was most important. The Vermont socialist won 61% of those voters while Mrs. Clinton settled for 34%. This no doubt reflects that Bernie has made inequality a major theme in his campaign, but then again socialists have been railing about the gap between rich and poor for decades.
But what is the basis of this concern? Some raise economic arguments (e.g., income inequality leads to poorer growth due to the lower marginal propensity to consume of the rich–a Keynesian argument). Yet most make this a top concern over fairness–there is an underlying morality to this. It is simply immoral that one person can make billions while another is desperately poor. Thus the socialists like Mr. Sanders condemn capitalism as immoral.
But is the appeal to a fairness morality Biblically sound? I argue no: the Bible offers no condemnation of income (or wealth) inequality per se. The Bible has MUCH to say about concern for the poor, and you can make a case to condemn rich who do not help the needy. But this is different from income or wealth inequality. If the minimum income in today’s purchasing power were $200k in the U.S., such that everyone had a very nice lifestyle, while some people were making $2T per year, I argue that this differential in and of itself is not of Biblical concern. Yes the rich need to be personally concerned about the dangers of wealth. But the gap itself is not inherently wrong. We see many Biblical examples of very wealthy people that the Bible commends living at times where there were poor people (e.g., Job). While these rich were considered just for aiding the poor, there was never a thought that there should be equality of outcome (Job 1:8, 29:17, 42:12)
This post is a follow-on to my progressive taxation post, and precedes a post on proportional (flat) taxation that I’ll do in a few days.
So what do you think? How do you read the scriptures?
My concluding assertion: God cares a lot more about our unity than He does our equality.