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There is actually a lot of research suggesting that inequality in a society is itself the cause of many problems. This is not surprising to me, since, after all, it is ridiculous to speak of wealth in absolute terms. $20k doesn't mean anything.

You may call it envy if that's how you see it -- if you indeed are interesting in learning about the many problems of economic inequality, I recommend the book The Spirit Level (http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resource/the-spirit-level).

$20k has a very well defined (albeit complex) meaning: it means that the sum of the prices of goods consumed by the individual adds up to $20k. (Note that the figures I gave for other nations were adjusted for PPP, so price levels are adjusted.)

I can think of no mechanism besides envy which would cause income inequality to harm anyone. It's not as if the US poor lack some good or service which is available in other, more equal societies.

Note that the Spirit Level only provides a correlation between inequality and other problems. It does not show the direction of causality.

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