economic injustice

Economic inequality is the unequal distribution of opportunities and rewards in our economy and social system.

Key issues:
International inequality? - the differences between national incomes around the world (GDP per capital)
Income inequality - the range and distribution of income in within a nation.
Wealth inequality? - the range and distribution of wealth (including debts and assets)
Market (income) inequality? - the range and distribution of income before taxes
After tax inequality? - the range and distribution of income and benefits after government redistribution.
Relative Quality of Life indicators? - which measure the range and distribution of health and well being instead of money.
Social Mobility? - The frequency at which people from low income backgrounds can achieve high incomes and vice versa.
Intergenerational inequality? - the degree to which there are increased or decreased opporunites from one generation to the next.
Intertemporal inequality? - the degree to which individual incomes fluctuate at different times in their working life.

Issue:Historic Inequality

Since the establistment of nation states, economic inequality has been consistently very high, to the point of being a dominant feature of civilization. Inequality in Early Mediterranean, Central American, and South Asian civilizations was more political than economic in nature, the general presumption in all was that it was part of the natural order that the many should work for the benefit fo the few. Living standards for most europeans actually improved after the fall of the Roman Empire. Inequality in Paris during the 13th century (which was estimated at a Gini coefficient of 0.7) would exceed the worst examples in the world today.

Issue:Economic factors

Economic and technological factors are the dominant reason for the global inequality of incomes on a national basis (comparing one nations per capita income to another) In the last few centuries, technological and social advancements have dramatically increased living standards, longevity and (arguably) quality of life in a few countries first, while others stagnated (or were colonized by early developers). Income levels among countries employing similar levels of technology have been shown to "converge" (as in the OECD).
Generally speaking to economic effects on equality within countries - as nations developed living standards for the majority increased gradually over the decades, while the wealth of the wealthiest increased at varying rates depending upon the economic climate - there is generally a substantial "lag" in the rising tide that lifts some boats sooner than others, but all boats eventually (sometimes decades later). Social mobility (that is, 'permanent' inequality resulting from one's lineage or family status) has improved substantially in developed nations, but the intertemporal inequality (fluctuation of an individuals income over time) has increased. Inequality between occupations ??

In most now developed countries there was an egalitarian trend (interrupted by world wars and a global depression in the 1930's) through most fo the 19th and 20th centuries, reflected by the expansion of what came to be known as the "middle class."

Issue:Political factors

While economic developments have the greatest effect on long term trends in living standards and quality of life, Political factors tend to determine the differences in internal economic inequality when comparting one nation to the next. In examining the differences between countries. It can be generally said that:

  • Underdeveloped countries are less equal (.3 - .6) than more developed or developing countries. (.2 - .5)
  • Democratic and socialist countries as a group (0.2 - 0.4 range of the gini coefficient) are substantially more equal than dictatorships (0.4 - 0.6)
  • Socialist countries (before the collapse of the Soviet Union) were generally more equal (.2 - .3) than liberal democracies. (.25 - .40)

Issue:Continental differences

While there are exceptions to the rule inequality has a continental character, listed from lowest to highest,
  • Europe
  • North America
  • South Asia
  • East Asia
  • Latin America
  • Africa
Regional and cultural differences imply that there is no "one size fits all" solution to economic inequality.

Issue: Rising inequality (in wealthy nations) in the Late 20th Century

It has become a well established economic fact that among developed countries a trend toward increasing equality in the post WWII era reversed itself in the 1970's and since then the general trend in OECD nations has been toward rising income equality.

  • the trend in many countries, since the mid 1970s, to increased inequality and polarization of the earned income of men. Although the same has often not been true for women.
  • the fact that in a number of countries (e.g. USA, Canada ), the rapid rise in average hourly real
wages of the early 1970s has been followed by a quarter century of stagnation.
  • higher income families have experienced positive income growth while lower income families ahve at best stagnated.
  • rising differentials in earnings between young and old workers, and an absolute decline in the average real earnings of young workers, (especially those with little education ) has been 2 combined with persistently high youth unemployment in many countries.
  • Globalization (in terms of competition for jobs between countries) is not the primary cause for most of the increase in inequality - More explanatory emphasis is placed on within country differences and "premiums to education".

Position: Global econmic inequality:

see: economic philosophy UN reform International Peace and Security? debt

Position: economic inequality within Canada"

  • Preventative health care - by supporting people's pursuit of a healthy lifestyle outside of the conventional medical industry which is recognized by health insurance.
  • Child poverty - by ensuring that parents have the resources to care for their children.
  • Childcare - by increasing families' opportunities to choose to stay at home with the kids, or afford quality day-care and pursue careers.
  • Domestic violence - making women safer by ensuring that they would not need to stay in a dangerous situation on the basis of economic need.
  • Consumerism - by empowering people to reduce their reliance on the consumer treadmill.
  • Basic income is one possible avenue for this, but no matter the mechanism, no-one will be excluded from a Green economy.


(ed: feel free to develop positions of a general/philosophical nature on this issue in the space below)

Nathan Sussman - Income Inequality in Paris in the Heyday of the Commercial Revolution(external link)
Lars Osberg Long Run Trends in Economic Inequality
in Five Countries - A Birth
Cohort View
(external link)
Nikola Koepke and Joerg Baten The Biological Standard of Living in Europe During the Last Two Millennia(external link)
Deininger and Squire Data Set on World Income Inequality (World Bank)(external link)

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