[ExI] The top 0.1% earn 77 times the income of the bottom 90%

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 28 13:07:55 UTC 2009

--- On Mon, 4/27/09, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> On page 15 of the Economist (two
> weeks ago, the
> "Get the Rich" cover), there was this line:
>   (in 2006) the top 0.1% of Americans
>   earned 77 times the income of the
>   bottom 90%.
> Note it was *income*, not total wealth.
> Also, it is not "per capita" obviously
> since there are 900 times as many people
> in the bottom 90%.
> So say we're generous, and via tax we
> let the top 1 in 1000 people keep, oh,
> say a mere 60 times the income of the
> bottom 90%.
> Then double what we all make in the bottom
> 90%, and use what's left to spread among
> the 90 - 99.9 in some equitable way.
> Somehow, I doubt that the top .1% is very
> much inconvenienced by this, and everyone
> else is tremendously better off.
> Yet I have this feeling in my bones that
> I am trying to circumvent a law of nature,
> or embrace a logical impossibility, or
> invent a perpetual motion machine. But
> what is the simplest two-sentence refutation
> of this?
> Hell, I can't really think of an airtight
> refutation at all.

I would question the use of the word "earn" here -- given wealth transfers to the rich as well as to the non-rich.  Has a person who has gotten wealthy because she or he had good connections in the central government -- hence got lucrative contracts, subsidies, or other assistance* -- really earned it?

This, of course, doesn't answer your question.  Rafal already provided a pragmatic response to it.  I would try to persuade people of the immorality of taking any justly earned or justly acquired wealth.  And I'd also try to persuade people that there should be no presumption of equality in earnings or wealth.



*  Such assistance can even, at the extreme, including regulations that hurt the person's business, but hurts her or his rivals' businesses more.  This, e.g., seems to be why Walmart would support increasing the minimum wage in the US: yes, such an increase would hurt Walmart, but it would hurt its rivals -- especially small mom and pop firms -- even more.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list