Fixing Income Inequality

Monday, May 19th, 2014

If you could snap your fingers and magically double the wealth and income of every human on earth, Scott Adams (Dilbert asks), would you do it?

Before you answer with some version of “Duh, yes.” keep in mind that you would be severely worsening income inequality. And that, as we are often reminded by the media, will destroy civilization.

I’m not entirely clear why income inequality leads to doom, all other things being equal, but I hear it has something to do with the French. The analogy, as I understand it, is that Marie Antoinette and her historically inaccurate philosophy “Let them eat cake” is exactly like Bill Gates pledging his fortune to eradicating malaria, fixing education, and providing clean water to the poor.


You can kill that guy with a shovel. That has jury nullification written all over it. I haven’t looked into it, but I’m fairly sure there are a few assholes among the middle class and poor too. Can we ignore the outliers for now?

One of the odd things about my career, and where I live, is that I meet a lot of billionaires and hundred-millionaires in the normal course of my work. Allow me to label my experience anecdotal and rare before you do. Anyway, my experience is that all the super-rich people I meet seem to have a few things in common:

  • They don’t need to work.
  • They all work 60+ hours per week.
  • Every penny they make from now on will be spent by others.
  • They are trying to find the best way to give away their money.
  • No one likes higher taxes.

I don’t think we want the rich to stop working. We’re all lucky that Steve Jobs didn’t quit before Pixar. But if the rich keep working, inequality is likely to keep getting worse. So how do you solve the problem of helping the rich give away their money in ways that help low-income folks the most while being meaningful to the givers?

Rich people wish they had a better and more meaningful way to get rid of excess wealth than buying jets or paying taxes:

How about a private entity creating some sort of venture capital funding program that allows the rich to leverage their experience and their cash in ways that best help the economy? Think of it as micro-loans to low-income borrowers but with the kicker that the lender can offer mentoring, contacts, and even training.

Yeah, let’s harness all those low-income people with good business ideas…


  1. Bruce says:

    ‘Yeah,let’s harness all those low-income people with good business ideas.’

    The most effective poor-relief person I ever met was a Lutheran farmwife in her 90s who put together monthly grocery bags for her church. She’d been poor-out-of-sight in 1930′s, she knew where to get quality food cheap, she could explain to the undeserving, mentally underdeveloped poor exactly how to prepare every item with the power out, a killer hangover, and a bad-tempered killer boyfriend.

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