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Thursday, January 16, 2014

David Brooks, "The Inequality Problem": Focus on Cause, Not Effect?

For the first time since returning from book writing leave, David Brooks has written an interesting New York Times op-ed entitled "The Inequality Problem" (, concerning the hot topic of income inequality. Brooks's conclusion:

"Some on the left have always tried to introduce a more class-conscious style of politics. These efforts never pan out. America has always done better, liberals have always done better, when we are all focused on opportunity and mobility, not inequality, on individual and family aspiration, not class-consciousness.

If we’re going to mobilize a policy revolution, we should focus on the real concrete issues: bad schools, no jobs for young men, broken families, neighborhoods without mediating institutions. We should not be focusing on a secondary issue and a statistical byproduct."

Or stated otherwise, focus on the cause and not on the effect.

Poverty is a mere "statistical byproduct"? I don't think so.

Failure to urgently combat this "statistical byproduct" could also have calamitous consequences, e.g., malnutrition and crime, and undermine any efforts to remedy Brooks's "concrete issues."

Indeed, "affluence for the rich" might not be "causing the immobility of the poor." On the other hand, there is no reason why some of that affluence should not be used to mitigate human suffering, thus securing the economic and moral integrity of the society in which all of us live. Yes, I suppose some might call this "socialism," but so what?

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