The Conversation

Inequality between the apples and oranges

Thomas Sowell calls out the merchants of envy for two of their biggest "income inequality" myths in his latest column.  In both cases, a political crusade is built upon willful misrepresentation of data.  

The more complex matter he discusses is something he has written about many times in the past: the way individual people move up and down income brackets over time, but the income inequality crusade is based entirely on the performance of the brackets.  In other words, the top "one percent" might be pulling in more dough these days, but not all of the actual individual people in the One Percent today were there five or ten years ago, and not all of them will be there five or ten years from now.  Another way this fallacy manifests itself is deliberate ignorance of the effect age has on income and net worth - a person of modest means in his twenties might well end up with significant income, savings, and property by the time he retires.  

This is one reason the devaluation of marriage correlates with that growing "income inequality" liberals are always going on about.  Married couples have a better chance of accumulating and retaining significant net worth, giving valuable assistance to their children when they launch their own careers, and leaving a substantial inheritance.  Accumulated family wealth is a wonderful thing; the dissolution of marriage has made it more difficult to build a fortune that grows across generations.

Dr. Sowell's other point about comparing apples and oranges to produce politically useful clamor about "inequality" is simple, devastating, and highly relevant to modern politics, because it's a sacred cause of modern feminism, and an issue Barack Obama's political team was pumping out more propaganda to support just a few days ago:

Recently Kirsten Powers repeated on Fox News Channel the discredited claim that women are paid only about three-quarters of what a man is paid for doing the same work.

But there have been empirical studies, going back for decades, showing that there is no such gap when the women and men are in the same occupation, with the same skills, experience, education, hours of work and continuous years of full-time work.

Income differences between the sexes reflect the fact that women and men differ in all these things — and more. Young male doctors earn much more than young female doctors. But young male doctors work over 500 hours a year more than young female doctors.

The "women make 70% of what men make!" canard is absolutely deathless, even though its falsehood has been well-established for years.  It's something feminists and their socialist allies need to be true.  No amount of empirical study data will ever persuade them to abandon their religious belief that evil patriarchs and brutish good old boys are paying hapless women 70 cents on the dollar just because they think girls aren't worth as much.

Invalid comparisons are a great way to persuade people to surrender disproportionate amounts of their liberty to politicians who promise to "fix" what was never really broken.


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