Regarding the family conundrum I would say that the four children should get an equal amount unless there is a very severe reason not to do so. One does not want to risk poisoning the relationship between the children after one is gone.
Regarding equality in the state the answer is that the state should strive to not have severe inequalities of opportunity, especially if they are so severe that they inhibit social mobility. This can never be done perfectly, though. Also, a situation of equality of opportunity will not lead to equality of outcome because, as this piece also discusses, people have different abilities, interests, and other attributes.
There's also evidence from the Talent vs luck model that doing so must be the most beneficial strategy to maximize the potential benefits of their talent. It shows that giving opportunities among all players is a superior strategy to giving more resources to those who have performed better so far.
The author opens with a description of (in)equality in very different contexts, in order to put a thesis in front of us: it's not possible to devise and apply an absolute definition of equality based on first principles, because the meaning or significance of equality is rooted in the complexity of our human condition.
How we approach equality is always context dependent.
Your argument to split the inheritance equally is just as valid as splitting inequally as far as the Universe and the rest of humanity is concerned. Whereas from the point of view of the parents, favoring one strategy over the other is based on moral principle as well as opportunity costs. The relationship between children and children/parents being a factor of varying importance.
As far as states are concerned, preserving social mobility isn't the end goal; it's a way station. The main goal of a state is to ensure the survival of a collective. No more, no less. Let's not forget that a 'state' only exists as a social construct. Equality and inequality alike are a function of how the vast number of interests - needs and wants - of individuals either align or collide with each other.
When you look at both families and states, you will see that similar dynamics and behaviors are at play. Individuals will always make a cost/benefit calculation in order to find out the extent to which a given strategy will yield value; either by contributing to the group and/or choose their own personal gain over the group. The main difference is the context, and so different variables will be used to calculate trade offs.
As far as social mobility is concerned, your parents will have very different motivators to fund your high-ed schooling as opposed to what a state is willing to facilitate.
The latter will only invest in individuals to the extent that doing so ensures the benefit of the collective, but there's little incentive to go beyond that. The idea that the state "should take care of its citizens" has always been and will always be at odds with the individual interests of those same citizens.
Hence why the dilapitated state of an education or healthcare system isn't a pressing problem until it becomes a problem for too many individuals and it threatens the survival of the collective as a whole.
The main concern of the state is not to pursue an ideal amount of equality amongst its citizens, but an optimum amount to ensure its continued existence. Whereas your parents will always hope that an ideal situation can be attained for the sake of their own children... which is very much a personal interest indeed.
Beyond opportunity equalized, an equitable society should bestow success proportional to the ambitious, persistent hard-working individuals. That might be imperfect, as a few statistical outliers who tend to have outsized innate advantages (Einstein, Ramanujam & Usain Bolt for instance) are likely to be more successful, but that's the most equitable design possible, within the bounds of reality, including evolution - where the fitter tend to survive better
Also, this only addresses the low-end of the inequality, for example people being poor. But inequality (of power, money are just a proxy for that) also causes problems at the high-end, because power corrupts and the more power you have, more corrupt you can become. So it is desirable to limit that too.
I wouldn't mind if there was a cap on personal wealth (say $10M), but many people feel it's wrong. I don't think it's necessarily unfair, I mean if economics is a competition (and not a power grab), in other competitions you don't get an advantage if you have been previously a winner (for example, Usain Bolt doesn't get to start 10m ahead because he won all the races up to that point). Even though people in other competitions start at the same line again, it actually doesn't seem to affect their willingness to participate. I don't know why people believe business should be any different.
> Even though people in other competitions start at the same line again
I think limiting personal wealth is too extreme personally. But you could still even the starting line, as you put it, by limiting inheritance.
The theory is always available, though, that history hates him so much because his policies were so awful.
Of course, you need democracy too. Since the beginning, the democratic concept was about equality of access to political power among citizens.
In many ways, it's what traditional anarchist/liberal left is about - equality in power (egalitarianism?) and not necessarily in the outcome.
There's not much more power needed to cap wealth at zero than at 10 million: the enforcement infrastructure would be the same.
Once you start considering efficiency of peoples work, it's very difficult to have a consistent framework.
Source? Data? That sounds completely made up and does not match the reality I live in, at all.
If you search meaningless jobs or bullshit jobs, you will find countless articles, and various percentages given, from 25% to 70%. I think it's safe to say the number I not zero
The real reason we have inequality is because this doesn't happen, but this is hidden behind the false narrative that it does - i.e. success is a positive contribution by definition, and somehow "must" be the product of hard work.
In fact the Money Cult rewards acquisition for its own sake. It hides the true cost of externalities which damage the prospects and life experiences of others.
Our accounting systems reward narcissistic sociopathy over mature contextual awareness, and are politically toxic. "Market" values specifically exclude social and economic costs. And political sponsorship adds another positive feedback loop to the whole mess.
If post-market values rewarded actions that created positive social and cultural benefits of all kinds - from technology to education to medicine to pure science to the arts - we'd see an explosion of prosperity and potential that would make capitalist ethics look comically crippled and backward.
Having leaders is a good thing, it makes decision making a lot more efficient. But having leaders is a direct source of inequality.
Having owners is a good thing, it incentives people to take care and grow humanity's wealth and resources instead of falling for the tragedy of the commons. But having ownership is a direct source of inequality.
Having highly skill dependent jobs be better paid is a good thing, it incentivizes top talent to solve more important problems. But this is also a source of inequality since not every person is equally talented (hard work is a part of talent).
Valuing what you know and are used to is a good thing, it helps you reduce variance and risk so you can focus better on other things. But this is a source of inequality since it means that you discriminate against people who are different than you are used to.
> Chloe, the oldest, is a math wiz with a coding job at Google; she hopes to start her own company soon.
Smart. Successful. Can't be man. Must be a woman.
> Will, who has a degree in social work
Man assigned to non-stereotypical female role? Check!
> James, a perpetually stoned underachiever, is convinced that he can make it as a YouTuber.
The typical guys being lazy and stupid stereo-type, that's a bad stereotype... Can't put women in that one, can we? That would uh... not serve equality?
So by desperately trying to reverse gender stereotypes, but bailing out where it's not beneficial to women to do the gender juxtaposition, this article helps highlight the gender stereo-types it wants to avoid more than anything else.
Modern PC equality is pretty funny at it's heart :)
Do you realize you are doing the exact same thing as the PC equality types you mock, just from the other gender.
It obviously annoys you that they chose the girl for the successful job, but that is precisely the same annoyance people have when they always read it's a man.
You are picking and choosing examples, feeding your confirmation bias to get offended.
What makes you think that they don't know that is highlighting stereotypes, and that is actually the intend?
I don’t like blanket moral labels like “bad” and “good” used for things like inequality. It’s simply a fact of existence... it is what it is.
You might say that if I had less students in my class, then I could give them each an equal amount of attention. However, when I had those situations I was even less likely to do so. Each one of my students was different. They had different needs, and different desires. Indeed, ideally I would give each of my students completely different and unequal attention according to their needs and desires.
However, the key is that each of my students should have equal access to my teaching. I do not need, nor want to treat my students equally, but I should give each access to everything I can do to help them within my constraints. And, at the very least, if I can only help a limited number of students meaningfully, each student should have an equal chance at that help.
I tend to agree with you that these labels of "bad" and "good" from a moral perspective are problematic. However, from the perspective of building a society, we need to discriminate between what is going to further our aims and what is not. It is a tricky thing.
If someone uses sentence like "We all agree that *", it would be good to define "we".
Otherwise it's just manipulative and breaks personal boundaries of the reader.
Warlordism and human sacrifice are not.
People having different qualities and experiences is a positive. That inequality is generally agreed upon to be good. People living in poverty in first world nations which hosts billionaires is generally agreed upon to be bad.
 If you don't believe me, here is a quote from a famous Russian who advocated against inequality, dated 1914. Your objection was replied to more than one hundred years ago: "It goes without saying that in this respect men are not equal. No sensible person and no socialist forgets this. But this kind of equality has nothing whatever to do with socialism. [...] he would find there a special section explaining the absurdity of imagining that economic equality means anything else than the abolition of classes."
But even then, the strict two class world view doesn’t describe Marx’ entire philosophy regarding class, which was founded on ideas of social isolation. Something any level of class inequality will create.
Though in any case, the two class world view doesn’t fit into reality at all. According to that theory, anybody with capital is in the upper class. That’s a huge majority of people today. The moment you let people use capital, you have a Marxist theory class system. How could you possibly eliminate that? There’s no way? Well this was actually a problem Marx solved, and the quote makes much more sense when you account for that:
> The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.
That's not the message at all. Marx makes no mention of equality of outcomes, and in fact, he is known to be one of the first socialists to speak against the abstract idea of "equality". The class system, determined by ownership and control of large scale productive capacity in society, is founded on (but, supports in turn) the notion of private property. For Marx, alienation was not a by-product of class inequality, or even the class system, at least not directly - it was a result of the nature of the capitalist production process in which people do not see themselves in the goods they make at another's direction.
>According to that theory, anybody with capital is in the upper class.
This is the problem with strict definitions of "capital" and "upper class". You end up saying that most people in our society are capitalists, which while it may be terminologically true, it misses the point of the critique, which appears to apply whether people are termed capitalists or proletarians. Most people are wage labourers - the fact that they may also own some mostly immobile capital, stocks and shares in public companies does not make them capitalists, any more than fur makes a wolf. This is because capital is about the production process: its appropriation of the product of labour at the end of the day, its extraction of surplus-value (or, if you don't care for Marx's value theory, UE-exploitation and domination) and its totalization in society.
The majority of people may have some kind of capital (do they?), yet given they can't live from it, it still rings strikingly true to say that a proletarian is defined by being only the possessor of his capacity to labour.
This is an absurdly revisionist view, that can be falsified simply by reading his work. The only way to dismantle class structure is to institute equality of outcomes.
His view of equality of outcomes is perhaps the most extreme view of equality possible. His view was to abolish private property all together. Something he passionately and repeatedly promoted.
> In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.
> But if selling and buying disappears, free selling and buying disappears also. This talk about free selling and buying, and all the other “brave words” of our bourgeois about freedom in general, have a meaning, if any, only in contrast with restricted selling and buying, with the fettered traders of the Middle Ages, but have no meaning when opposed to the Communistic abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production, and of the bourgeoisie itself.
> You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population
> In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.
The nice sounding quotes about dismantling class structure don’t stand up to even passing scrutiny. These ideas are not compatible with a free society, and by presenting them in that way, you are concealing the oppressive nature of the system they are promoting.
Cite some, then. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy actually makes quite a point about Marx on this. There is no "equality of outcomes" in Marx, or as I cited earlier, Lenin. Marx repeatedly and ferociously argued against these abstract notions such as "fairness", the equality of wages, and other things you associate with him.
>The nice sounding quotes about dismantling class structure don’t stand up to even passing scrutiny.
>These ideas are not compatible with a free society
It's ironic that before approximately the middle of the 20th century, there was hardly a single philosopher who argued that "free society" or "freedom" should be understood as private property (state-protected large scale means of production). Seriously - look at almost any major modernist or pre-modern philosopher concerned with political philosophy, from Rawls and Sen today, to Nietzche, Marx, Proudhon, Rousseau, Stirner and perhaps even Hegel in the past.
These figures were arguing for free society, and precisely from the same premises of self-actualization that Marx was.
 "Hence with the possible exception of Barbeuf (1796), no prominent author or movement has demanded strict equality. Since egalitarianism has come to be widely associated with the demand for economic equality, and this in turn with communistic or socialistic ideas, it is important to stress that neither communism nor socialism — despite their protest against poverty and exploitation and their demand for social security for all citizens — calls for absolute economic equality. The orthodox Marxist view of economic equality was expounded in the Critique of the Gotha Program (1875). Marx here rejects the idea of legal equality, on three grounds. In the first place, he indicates, equality draws on a merely limited number of morally relevant vantages and neglects others, thus having unequal effects; right can never be higher than the economic structure and cultural development of the society it conditions. In the second place, theories of justice have concentrated excessively on distribution instead of the basic questions of production. In the third place, a future communist society needs no law and no justice, since social conflicts will have vanished."
I cited several quotes from Marx claiming he planned to abolish private property. Did you not see that? It doesn’t matter what he called it, if you’re promoting one outcome for everybody, you’re promoting equality of outcome.
Marx does not, and never has, promoted one outcome for everybody, in the same way that capitalism does not promote one outcome for everybody just because everyone has the right to acquire property.
> The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State
> We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others
The state will control all property, any property an individual possesses will be exclusively granted by the state, and no person will possess any property in excess of their basic needs.
This is the philosophy of Marx. He wrote it down for all of us to read. You can clearly come up with contrived arguments for why this doesn’t represent a perfect equality of outcomes, but Marx’ visions would be clearly considered an enforced equality of outcomes by any reasonable person.
Please, for the love of God, read Marx. Actually read Marx and understand the context he was writing in. Talk to any Marx scholar or go to any encyclopedia of philosophy. Ask a political science professor, or even just read Wikipedia. But don't misrepresent someone's thought because you don't understand it.
>The state will control all property, any property an individual possesses will be exclusively granted by the state, and no person will possess any property in excess of their basic needs.
The part you quoted does not actually claim this. When Marx talks about "appropriation that is made for [...] of human life", if you read his Critique of the Gotha Program, he specifically explicates on this: products of society to fund education systems, healthcare, expansion of production, funds for those who are physically unable to work, and protection against natural disaster. This is exactly how taxes work today. Furthermore, Marx clearly says "all instruments of production". This does not include, as you falsely claim, "all property, any property".
What you are claiming is that because Marx talks about appropriation of surplus, then he must therefore be talking about all labour. This is false and not backed up with any quote you have shown. Marx is talking no more about taking away your toothbrush or laptop as much as a Western European state today takes them away through taxes.
Don't just believe me. Do your own research. Read more than the Manifesto (since this seems to be your only source, it's worth noting that Marx changed his views significantly afterwards, and with the publication of Capital). If you want a short read as to why you're wrong, where Marx specifically responds to people who want "equality of outcome", where he specifically explicates what he means by "instruments of production", read Critique of the Gotha Program. Consult a scholar on Marx.
This has to be one of the most unproductive conversations I've had on HN, in which you quote one propaganda document written years before Marx had published anything serious, in which all Marxologists and philosophers agree his views and philosophy had changed. Read, and don't stop reading.
If you measure equality by outcomes, regardless of the type of outcome you’re measuring, then you’re measuring people’s differences as much as you’re measuring anything else. Unequal outcomes are not something that can be remedied, nor something that we should attempt to remedy.
The largest source of inequality, by far, is inherited wealth. This is true both at the top (Bill Gates' children will start out much better in life than his cleaner's children), and in large populations (children of freed slaves start out in life with much less wealth than the children of free workers, whether it's black slaves in the south or gypsies in Romania), and this also tends to perpetuate through many generations.
Probably the second largest source of inequality is explicit in-group biases. Powerful and wealthy groups (e.g. rich people, politicians, academicians) can induce large inequality by simply selecting people like themselves to help and peoe different from themselves to hinder. Male professors would often give female students harder assignments or lower marks in the early days of women in high-education. Male-only entrepreneurs were far more likely to do business with other men than with women when women started being allowed to own property. Rich people rarely accept poorer people in their social clubs.
Another huge cause of inequality are perceived differences (for example, there was once ample belief in European circles that non-white people were not capable of higher thought, so of course it is absurd to try to educate them). Even today, you have people like James Damore claiming that women are known to be inferior in coding skills, and extrapolating from there that few women could code at Google, as if coding at Google is like Olymping weight-lifting, instead of it being like being mildly successful at the gym.
And these 3 are all sources of inequality that we should seek to eliminate. There may be others as well, but these are the biggest by far. After we eliminate them, sure, some natural inequality will remain, and the very top of some fields, where differences in ability really matter, inequality will be very visible - you will rarely see female weight-lifters trying to compete in men's competitions. At this level, we may also see differences in aspects of intelligence between different groups show up, if those are indeed real.
But for the vast majority of human endeavors, there are no significant natural differences between people which would truly affect outcomes. Human beings are vastly more similar than usually believed, after deliberately taking some moderate amount of training in something.
You have fallen back on the same lazy trope that for inequality to exist, that it simply must be due to injustice.
Aside from your illogical assertion that inheritance some how constitutes an unjustified inequality. A person can give their property to anybody they please, we can and we do tax such transactions, but it perpetuates wealth across generations, it does not constitute an unnatural or unjust inequality.
> Human beings are vastly more similar than usually believed, after deliberately taking some moderate amount of training in something.
The differences from one person to another simply cannot be dismissed. If you seperate people into large enough group, the average differences become much smaller. But from one person to the next, differences are often very extreme. If you took two random people from the worlds population, you have no reason at all to believe their motivations, or the choices they made in life would have much in common at all.
I accept no such burden. Since the ideal world would have plenitude for all, anything that takes us away from such a world must be justified. And 'nature' is not a justification. Disease is natural, but we don't have to justify trying to cure disease.
> A person can give their property to anybody they please, we can and we do tax such transactions, but it perpetuates wealth across generations, it does not constitute an unnatural or unjust inequality.
Unlike what some modern libertarians may believe, the right to property is not necessarily fundamental. There are perfectly coherent moral systems that do not value the right to property very highly at all. As such, the right to transfer your wealth to your children may be severely diminished, if it is important for more important ideals.
> If you took two random people from the worlds population, you have no reason at all to believe their motivations, or the choices they made in life would have much in common at all.
Sure, choices can vary a lot between individuals. But society as a whole can work to ensure that outcomes are not vastly different. For example, it should not be possible to starve in a wealthy country because of poor choices. It should not be possible to be homeless in a wealthy country because of poor choices. It should not be possible to be denied medical care in a wealthy country because of poor choices. And it should also not be possible to have more influence over the country's policy than 99.9% percent of the population because of good choices. Especially when those good choices were made by you grandfather.
HN's guidelines say: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive." Please follow that one along with the others.
The moment we acknowledge that some lawyers (doctors, teachers, chefs, etc.) are better and some are worse, we must by necessity accept that there is no such thing as equality. Because some will by necessity get a better deal, and some will get a poorer one.
Some analogies work better here than others. Sure, a rich person may get a better chef and better food than a poor person.
But should a rich person get better justice than a poor person? The entire idea of justice is that it's blind, everyone who comes before it is equal. If we accept the fact that rich folks get more justice than poor folks, we are by definition admitting that there is no justice at all.
Besides, what does equality under the law mean? Arguably we already have that, but we see massive inequalities that cannot be entirely chalked up to inherent dispositions of the people that face them. Either the law, in its equality, does not do as it should (in which case the justice system needs strengthening), or the pure bluntness of law is insufficient for change.
How does one encode "meritocracy", into the law without being unjust and interfering with private life?
What if we were to find an inequality that can be remedied with law? Would it mean that we should use the law, to imprison people?
Or how about conflicts of rights? Many feminists (rightly or wrongly) claim that the pornographer's right to freedom of speech interferes with women's equality - some (Maitra, Langton, Hornsby, et al.) claim that it interferes with womens' right to be understood (and thereby freedom of speech)?
Is justice blind, as is often claimed? There are reasons to doubt that even Rawls himself considered the current system of justice as near his theory of the veil of ignorance.
The law, considered alone, does not do a great job of reducing inequality, except as a gesture.
No philosopher, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes, except Barbeuf (in the year 1796) has ever demanded "strict equality".