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Economic Differences

April 16, 1993

Gross differences in income are, at best, a partial story. A critical byproduct of economic "segregation" is that identical housing and services in one town may cost considerably more in another; hence the true gap as measured by quality of life is much smaller than the income disparity may imply. Moreover, despite Molyneux's contrary implication, there is a close correlation between education, hours worked and income, i.e., if they are typical, his Joneses earning $150,000 per year probably stayed in school longer and now work considerably longer hours than the Smiths earning $36,000 per year. That is not to say that the Smiths did something wrong. But there is no validity to a goal of narrowing the gap per se.

While many differences are unrelated to "fault" (e.g., differences in intellectual ability), the absence of fault among the unlucky does not justify penalizing the successful. We should derive no pleasure from redistributing wealth or from penalizing those who measure success by their incomes. We need ways of helping the Smiths without hurting the Joneses. Vindictiveness is not a prescription for lasting gains.

KENIN M. SPIVAK

Los Angeles

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