There is nothing new here, but I found the entire column interesting, perhaps because I agree with it.
Some inequality is inevitable, and there seem to be three principal factors that make it more tolerable.
Inequality is easier to accept if everyone is becoming better off. Recent dissatisfaction in Britain and the US is significantly attributable to the fact that while some have grown much richer, median incomes have not increased. The criticism that the rapid economic growth of China and India has been accompanied by rising inequality is mainly made from outside these countries.
Inequality is easier to accept if the beneficiaries have benefited people other than themselves. Bill Gates’s extraordinary wealth causes little resentment because he is associated with technological innovations that have transformed business and personal life. Financiers rarely attract similar approval because – sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly – they are suspected of appropriating wealth created by others rather than engaging in genuine wealth creation.
And inequality is more tolerable if its beneficiaries behave well. Mr Gates has chosen to devote his Microsoft fortune and his time to philanthropy rather than fly in entertainers and exotic foods for lavish parties. Investor Warren Buffett lives in the Omaha bungalow he purchased 50 years ago.
John Kay, “London’s mayor is half right on envy, greed and inequality“, Financial Times, 4 December 2013.
This will soon be posted at www.johnkay.com, in the archive of John Kay’s past FT columns.