An elegant piece by James Taranto over at WSJ looking at arguments that libertarian-minded solutions to the supposed problem of ‘soaring inequality’ may do more harm than good, and that conservatives just don’t get what ‘public’ issues really are:

Further, even the idea that equality of income is just flies in the face of common sense. If you really believed it, you’d have rejected as false by definition our stipulation that B deserved his higher pay,

It turns out Konczal doesn’t really believe it either. To see why, look at what he presents as his most central argument:

[Obama] describes “an even more fundamental issue at stake.” And here is the idea that “gaping inequality gives the lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America: that this is a place where you can make it if you try.” Stagnation, entrenched multi-generational inequality, and runaway incomes reflect an economy where a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats and the rising from one class to another is next to impossible, causing a problem for everyone.

Implicit in the Obama quote is a rejection of equality of income as an ideal state. Income inequality is not only consistent with “the promise that’s at the very heart of America” but a necessary result of its fulfillment. If everyone earned the same income as everyone else every year, nobody could ever be said to “make it.”

True, the president qualifies his statement by limiting it to “gaping” inequality, whatever that means. Konczal refers to the “entrenched multi-generational” kind and to “runaway” incomes. Thus this passage turns out to be heavier on adjectives than on thought. As to Konczal’s complaint that “a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats,” that’s mathematically impossible when the altitude of each boat is being measured relative to the other boats!

Smart and interesting. We so rarely over here seem to have such lively work based on first principles.

Read the whole thing.