America is known as "the land of opportunity." But do people pay attention to whether or not America deserves to be known as the land of opportunity.. Instead, Americans seem fascinated by polls and surveys on the distribution of incomes. These surveys show that incomes are less evenly distributed than they were 20 or 30 years ago. In 1973, the richest 5 percent of all families had 11 times as much monthly pay as the poorest 5 percent. By 1996, they had almost 20 times as much. Not only the difference of income should concern us. The system that gives out the incomes should be looked into as well.
I would say that you cannot judge the fairness of any specific distribution without knowing something about the rules that they play by. Imagine a country where incomes were as unequal as they are in the United States but that everyone had an equal chance of receiving any particular income that is as unbiased as the lottery. Though some, might go pale at the thought of losing, and might wish for a more equal outcome a main concern and others might welcome the chance to do extremely well. But I also think that no one could complain that they didn’t have an equal shot at achieving a good outcome. So what people see of the fairness of the process is critical, and the rules governing who wins and who loses matter as much as the outcomes they produce.
In talking about this issue, we often invoke the phrase "equal opportunity," but we seldom reflect on what we really mean by "opportunity," how much of it we really have, and what we should do if it's in short supply. Instead, we have an increasingly sterile debate over income equality. One side argues for a redistribution of existing incomes, through higher taxes on the wealthy and more income support for the poor. The other side argues that inequality reflects differences in individual talent and effort, and as such is a spur to higher economic growth, as well as just compensation for unequal effort and skill. If there...
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