Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders

So much anger and angst about “Inequality” fills the American press without suggesting solutions. Do they propose taking from the wealthy and handing it to the poor? Just what do they want?

Do Americans really want economic equality, considering the vast economic differences in the world’s economies? How about economic equality with the 10 poorest countries in the world?

Malawi: (pop 16 million, GDP per capita of $226.50)
Burundi: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $267.10)
Central African Republic: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $333.20)
Niger: (pop 21 million, GDP per capita of $415.40)
Liberia: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $454.30)
Madagascar: (pop 20 million, GDP per capita of $463.00)
Democratic Republic of the Congo: (pop 77 million, GDP per capita of $484.20)
The Gambia: (pop 2 million, GDP per capita of $488.60)
Ethiopia: (pop 104 million, GDP per capita of $505.00)
Guinea: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $523.10)

United States (pop 300 million, GDP per capita of $51,638.10)

How much of your lifestyle would it take to “level the playing field with these 274 million African people who average $460 per year”? “Are you ready to make your contribution”?

I do not think so. It seems that the perceptions of difference limited to Americans are much more important to the critics than broader global realities. This way of thinking of the world in discreet nations is automatic for most people. We blithely ignore the fact that America is near the top of the economic “food chain” when we cry “inequality.” Even the TV weather seems to stop at our borders. But money does not.

The internet and international trade have dissolved the economic borders of nations. People can buy and sell goods and services among the countries of the world with fewer restrictions and barriers. Countries with lower cost labor compete with businesses in countries where wages and costs are much higher. Globalization has revealed the world’s true economic inequalities.

American workers were paid well to operate factories and do skilled and unskilled jobs; now many are displaced by globalization, and other technological and cultural factors. New jobs in America require different skills, and higher levels of education, knowledge, and experience. Those who do not or cannot adapt and learn are left to compete for lower-paying jobs.

Creating financial success is not an equal opportunity phenomenon. It tends to favor those who are born with successful parents, intellect, talent, and drive. Globalization and technology have created business opportunities that can make people wealthy overnight, widening the wealth gap between the haves and have nots.

Where did the concept of economic equality come from? Has any country survived and thrived under mandated economic equality? When, in history, were people equal in anything?

In its early form, America was unique in the world to propose that citizens govern themselves with the precepts of equal civil and legal rights under our constitution and laws. Under our system, we have equality of liberty and freedom for citizens who obey the law. We are not promised economic equality.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Conceptually, we asserted this in the context of renouncing the right of a king to rule his subjects. We were announcing that no one has a birthright to a lower or superior class or nobility in America. Further, it reads “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We were not announcing anything beyond natural rights to life, liberty (from overreaching, arbitrary laws and rules of monarchs), and the pursuit of happiness. We were not announcing redistribution of wealth, or handicapping the blessed.

Humans are born different and unequal in almost every aspect of being, including intellect, strength, size, eyesight, and other things that allow them to operate successfully in the world. The fact is, people are never equal; that is what makes them unique.

Von Smith

I am married to the love of my life. I am semi-retired. I started blogging 6 years ago. Now poetry, mostly Haiku.


mindworldfuture · February 15, 2018 at 2:43 am

I seem to remember that it was originally intended to read, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property,” but was changed. I’m not really sure though. (My education is spotty at best) Great read, keep on thinking deep my friend.

    Von Smith · February 15, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    No you are right. The change was Jefferson’s idea. It makes more sense to a young country made up of escapees from monarchy who value freedom above property.

      mindworldfuture · February 15, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      I do not want to distract from your article, but it was my understanding that most people sent out to the British colonies weren’t escapees, but rather were throw away’s not wanted in their own countries. Of which, many were bought and sold as indentured servants. They were told fabulous things about a new and free America but found that they were just given over to exploitation by the same powers as before. And once the country did rebel, it was founded and controlled by a minority of powerful white land owners who would remove values, like pursuit of property, because they did not want everyone to have equal opportunity, they just wanted a banner of idealism to rally the people with. Sorry I this conversation is way off of topic. The fact is, we are blessed to have the opportunities we have, and equality is a thing that is not so easily won. If I could give everyone a happy healthy life I would, but I’m not happy myself. Thank you for enduring my stupidity.

        Anonymous · February 17, 2018 at 10:59 pm

        I understand what you are saying. I do not see any stupidity, just a focused point of view; not the same. Much of what you say is true. There was at first, ala Jamestown and earlier colonists just an attempt to put people on the ground to support the claim for the land. As the colonies matured, and the scope of land available expanded, the oppressed and the opportunist began to dominate the exodus from Europe. The Quakers were not ejected, nor were the puritans, unless you count religious oppression throw away. Opportunities were so scarce in the monarchies; indenture with eventual freedom was as attractive as service in the Roman army to gain Roman citizenship, in the days of the Empire. New England and John Adams represented the Yankee spirit of independence. Pennsylvania was practically a religious community. Virginia and the South grew through the import of African slaves for agriculture. (BTW: only 4% of the slaves from Africa to the Americas came to the colonies. South America and its Spanish Landlords took 60%. The rest went to the Indies) In the north, French entrepreneurs, trappers & traders were not rejects either.

mindworldfuture · February 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

I am sad that I commented at all. This is beyond my level of intelligence to discuss.

Von Smith · February 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Not so. Be happy. You remembered something most Americans do not know. Thanks again.

ndarecca · February 16, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Von, I’d say you’re an idiot but it’s a crafty idiocy more akin to propaganda in service to a right wing ideology of the Fox News variety. You combine selective facts with distorted characterizations of your opponents. No responsible American is calling for complete or even approximate “economic equality” & no one wants to go “back to Africa” & live like a Zambian (where economic inequality is higher than USA).

The goal is to reduce the current scandalous, immoral, inefficient & undemocratic distribution of income & wealth in the US, where 82% of all economic growth goes to the top 1% and 3 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the pop (160,000,000). Justify that, please!

    Anonymous · February 18, 2018 at 12:02 am

    Thanks for acknowledging my craftiness. The purpose of the article was to show how parochial and egocentric Americans are, and to show how the changes in our culture and economy affect labor. True, Americans have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the wealth. The poorest Americans live better than most of the people in less developed countries. I do not hear much gratitude for the blessings we have, just complaints that they do not have more.

    The communist argument about the labor factor of production has not worked out in practice. Technology has weakened the power of workers even more. No mechanism for rewarding success is perfect; many of today’s tycoons invented worldwide products and services that attracted massive wealth from willing buyers who had choices. The top billionaires in America are people who started and grew new companies, Google Forbes’ billionaires articles, for examples.

    Past economies favored experience, perseverance and hard work. Farmers could support their families with what they grew and raised; today, we work for money and trade money for food and essentials, as well as for housing, entertainment, everything. The current era rewards intellect, information, education, invention, and perseverance and hard work. These are factors that are not common to everyone.These are factors that are not common to everyone.

    I invite you to look at any culturally-related 360 million people and show me successful examples of redistribution of wealth, and sustained economic growth. Europe does not, China does not, Russia does not, Brazil does not, India does not, Arabia and Egypt do not. The few that come close are small populations, with high education, and close cultural ties, like Sweden or Norway. Our neighbors to the north and south do not, Australia does no, the UK does not. Keep looking for anything close to equality on a large scale.

    No society is without the less endowed and less able. There is just no money in lack of education and ignorance. One reason I chose Africa is, they have the largest, poorest, least educated, fastest growing population the world, largely due to juntas, tribalism, and corruption taking everything for themselves. There is an example of inequality.

ndarecca · March 8, 2018 at 2:22 am

Your torrent of words are both over and under-whelming. You’re obviously a Social Darwinist, willing to write off the majority of the world’s population who lack the education, technical skill & entrepreneurship you value, and perhaps possess. Have you no heart, man? Where is it written that economic growth is the sole goal of economies and that fair distribution of resources is an illegitimate concern? What good is growth when the top 1% siphon off the majority of it from the outset and the poor & middle class never get ahead? You old Scrooge, I’ll pray for your shriveled soul.

Von Smith · March 9, 2018 at 10:25 am

I am sorry you interpret what I wrote with such negative passion. I am not applauding the way wealth is distributed, just asking how it could be otherwise. What is the alternative.

I grew up poor in America, after World War II. I have seen the top income tax bracket at 90% in the U.S. I have neither special privileges nor wealth, and I am in the bottom 10% of American incomes; yet I am grateful for the bounty and freedom I enjoy to choose my life and express my thoughts. You have that same freedom, and I respect your disagreement with the ways human economics have evolved over history. The questions I raise illustrate the lack of practical alternatives.

I have seen no examples of successful forced, or regulated redistribution of wealth. Of course, the current system is “unfair.” My question is, where is a “fair” system to be found, today, or at any point in history? As long as people are free to spend the money they get or have in any way they please, they will exchange that money for what they value. The question is a fair one: who is willing to part with their own money to benefit others?

Your pique seems quite acerbic to attack me for an exposition of mostly questions no one can answer satisfactorily. What do you propose to remedy the imbalance you see?

Your prayers on my behalf are quite unnecessary, as my soul has not shrunk noticeably.

drew mullings · March 29, 2018 at 12:32 pm


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