In my last post, I discussed why one should care about economic mobility for the poor rather than income equality. The basic point is that we should care how well the poor are doing rather than their relative position compared to the rich. If we can increase the wealth of the poor by $100, we should do so even if that involves giving the rich an extra $200.
So why do some people on the left focus on income equality rather than mobility for the poor. One possibility is that focusing on income equality allows them to argue directly for the result that they like – equality. If they had to discuss whether certain institutions, such as free market institutions, helped the poor, it would at best make their arguments messier and at worst sometimes support free markets. It is safer and simpler to argue for income equality and implicitly assume that money provided to the rich is always taken out of the pockets of the poor.
But this explanation simply moves us back a step: why don’t these people on the left care enough about the poor to focus on their situation, even at the risk of allowing these “argument costs.” There are several possibilities.