Economic inequality

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When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based. ~ Thomas Piketty
American families are in the process of passing along a $9 trillion legacy from one generation to the next. ... Hand in hand with this money, I submit, what is really being handed down from generation to generation is the profound legacy of reproducing racial inequality. The legacy is difficult to discern because the language of family heritage hides it from our political consciousness. ~ Thomas M. Shapiro

Economic inequality refers to how economic goods are distributed among individuals in a group, among groups in a population, or among countries.

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C[edit]

  • The fact is, people work hard and rely on Food Stamps—or SNAP Program—to be able to feed their families. When they work full-time they still live in poverty. That's wrong in our nation. Students who are losing hope because of the difficulty of finding jobs in this tough economy. What we need to do, what is best for America, is to raise wages, create jobs, and then we will move forward. Hard-working people are trying their best, but those who hold on to capital are not sharing the wealth, and there is the problem.

D[edit]

F[edit]

  • Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.
  • While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

L[edit]

  • The measures adopted by the Commune and emphasized by Marx are particularly noteworthy, viz., ... the reduction of the remuneration of all servants of the state to the level of "workman's wages." ... Circumstances can (and must) strip those functions of every shadow of privilege, of every semblance of "official grandeur."
    • Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917), in Essential Works of Lenin (1966), pp. 301-302

N[edit]

  • Not only do we have no real right to the things of the world, because belonging always essentially to God they can never belong to creatures; but we are also limited by the laws of God in the use of those possessions; for it must not be imagined that God gives them to us so that we may dispose of them as we wish. He is too just to have made such an unequal distribution. These goods being the means destined by his Providence for the subsistence of men, he gives to some more than they need only so that they may distribute it to others. A rich man, in so far as he is rich, is thus no more than steward of God's good things.

P[edit]

  • Whenever the rate of return on capital is significantly and durably higher than the growth rate of the economy, it is all but inevitable that inheritance (of fortunes accumulated in the past) predominates over saving (wealth accumulated in the present). ... The inequality r > g in one sense implies that the past tends to devour the future: wealth originating in the past automatically grows more rapidly, even without labor, than wealth stemming from work, which can be saved. Almost inevitably, this tends to give lasting disproportionate importance to inequalities created in the past, and therefore to inheritance.

Q[edit]

  • At the time of the Prophet's call to risalah, Arab society was devoid of proper distribution of wealth and devoid of justice. A small group monopolized all wealth and commerce, which increased through usury. The great majority of the people were poor and hungry. The wealthy were also regarded as noble and distinguished, and the common people were not only deprived of wealth but also of dignity and honor.

    It can be said that Muhammad—peace be on him—was capable of starting a social movement, declaring war against the class of nobles and the wealthy, taking away their wealth and distributing it among the poor.

R[edit]

  • Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all.
  • The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts. What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts. Aristocratic and caste societies are unjust because they make these contingencies the ascriptive basis for belonging to more or less enclosed and privileged social classes. The basic structure of these societies incorporates the arbitrariness found in nature. But there is no necessity for men to resign themselves to these contingencies. The social system is not an unchangeable order beyond human control but a pattern of human action.
  • The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, thought of saying ‘This is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders; how much misery and horror the human race would have been spared if someone had pulled up the stakes and filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to everyone and the earth itself belongs to no one!”

S[edit]

  • American families are in the process of passing along a $9 trillion legacy from one generation to the next. This is a lot of money, but it is distributed very unevenly.. ... Hand in hand with this money, I submit, what is really being handed down from generation to generation is the profound legacy of reproducing racial inequality. The legacy is difficult to discern because the language of family heritage hides it from our political consciousness.
    • Thomas M. Shapiro, The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality (2005), p. 32
  • Mainstream sociological theory sees differences in jobs, skills, and education as the primary causes of inequality, and substantial wealth transfers embarrass this theory. The classical sociologist Emil Durkheim, for example, predicted that family inheritances would decline over time in favor of giving to charitable and nonprofit organizations, but studies examining actual bequests invalidate this predication. ... In 1989 charitable bequests constituted less than 10 percent of proceeds of estates valued at over $600,000 in the United States.
    • Thomas M. Shapiro, The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality (2005), p. 32

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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