Economic Equality versus Economic Liberty
by Alex Merced
One of the fundamental divides among activist economics is what is the goal when thinking of policy and the economy. Progressives focus on Economic Equality and how policy can manipulate the economy to distribute resources in a more "equitable" or "fair" way as measured through income statistics. While Libertarians and Conservatives are more concerned with Economic Liberty allowing capital to flow freely increasing the odds of that capital to flow into the hands of those with the greatest entrepeneurial ability who can put that capital to use developing the division of labor, structure or production, and into innovations that create more accessibility to scarce goods for all.
It's hard to measure the effects of Economic Liberty via statistics because it's about the quality of products and services improving and their costs dropping. For example, the Iphone may not be a cheap gadget, but because of it there are many other purchases I can bypass such as buying watches, gaming consoles, calculators, and many other things people would spend a lot of their wages on is now in one device for much less than all of those individual goods put together. So while looking at income statistics may show "real wages" havn't grown in decades but quality of life sure has increased since less wages are needed to have access to a variety of benefits since you need fewer devices to do more tasks. This is the result on entrepeneurship and innovation which can be magnified by free flow of capital and information which those who support economic liberty focus on.
Although, those who support Economic Equality measure their policies via aggregate macroeconomic income statistics. Just because numbers such as "real wages" grow or "the income distribution" narrows doesn't mean that an increase in the quality of life has occured because quality of life is not tied to how much you make, but what you can buy with it (oh yeah... and if it makes you happy, which is not measurable) which is constantly being imporved by productivity gains and innovation from entrepeneurs. So instead of the hyper focus on labor wages, they'd be better of focusing on fostering entrepeneurship in individuals like the Economic Libertarians.
Dec 15 2010, 11:36 PM