Myths/complaints about economic disparity are just greed

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Claim

Attempts to discuss growing economic disparity are frequently dismissed as "envy", "jealousy", or "greed".

Examples

  • 2015-04-22 Brian Wood's comment "I hear that whine of "I want I want" from spoiled children and liberals all the time. Demanding that others buy them stuff because they are somehow entitled to whatever they want."
  • 2015-01-21 Google+ user sty0pa's comment accusing Democrats of "constantly raising class warfare and envy"
The claim on this page needs more explanation and/or sources. More examples are needed.

Reality

Nick Hanauer, a member of the 0.01% and "a proud and unapologetic capitalist", made this observation[1] addressed to his "fellow zillionaires":

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country – the 99.99 percent – is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn't that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

[...]

No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when.

Other issues with this argument include:

  • Ascribing a venal motive to a particular position is not a logical argument against that position; it does not address the content, but instead relies on the logical fallacy of guilt by association.
  • Many of the arguments against economic disparity come from those who are arguing on behalf of others, and do not themselves need more; a few are in fact very wealthy individuals who would be among those who would be taxed more, so they can hardly be accused of wanting more for themselves:
    • Nick Hanauer (see above quote)
    • Warren Buffett
  • There are legitimate, objective reasons to believe that too much economic disparity poses a serious problem for any society that values egalitarianism (high amounts of individual freedom for all), and that the United States has clearly passed this point:
    • The wealthy now effectively control elections, instead of elections being decided more or less equally (one vote per adult citizen), via their ownership of the media and their ability to create and broadcast convincing propaganda.
    • Many people are lacking in basic human needs such as adequate nutrition, housing, education, and medical care. We have more than enough resources to meet these needs, but the wealthiest are hoarding them.

Sources

  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NH