Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Capitalism Does Not Cause Income Inequality

An interesting article in the British newspaper, The Financial Times.

Some excerpts:

"But the belief that market liberalisation increases social inequalities is not borne out by the evidence. The UK certainly has higher levels of poverty and inequality than France or Germany. But pointing this out is just selective use of evidence to support a predetermined conclusion. If there were a strong correlation between levels of market liberalisation and social outcomes, one would expect to see the pattern replicated across the European Union - not just in a carefully selected group of countries."

"The nation with the lowest levels of poverty and income inequality in the EU, as well as the lowest rate of long-term unemployment, is Denmark - a country with competitive product markets and some of the least restrictive labour laws. Countries with the worst social outcomes (Greece, Italy and Portugal) all have restrictive product and labour market laws. Liberalisation, it seems, no more threatens social justice than regulation guarantees it."


"The reason the Nordics and the Dutch have the most egalitarian outcomes is that they provide the best education. The correlation between educational and social outcomes across the EU is striking. People with low levels of attainment at secondary education are most exposed to the risk of poverty. Moreover, the more educated people are, the more likely they are to be in work: the employment rate for Europeans with tertiary education is 80 per cent, whereas it is just 50 per cent for those who fail to complete their secondary education."


"In short, inequality in the UK seems to have more to do with high drop-out rates from upper secondary education than with the country's privatised rail system, liberal labour laws or levels of social transfers. If this analysis is correct, it suggests that the British government faces an uphill task trying to reduce inequalities through the tax and benefits system. It also suggests that countries in which drop-out rates are high are the most exposed to increases in income inequality resulting from globalisation and technological change."


"The European countries most at risk of rising social inequalities are those with underperforming education systems."

So if school choice lowers the drop out rate, which I believe it does, then income inequality will decline. Interesting how a free market system accomplishes the goals of socialism better than socialism.

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