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Russ Roberts on inequality and poverty

Our age right now – this might change – is obsessed with inequality. And it disturbs me deeply that inequality is conflated with poverty. They’re not the same thing.

A lot of people blame the condition of the poor on inequality as if the world was a zero sum game. If you press the person who says that [they’ll say] “Oh of course I don’t mean that,” but I think there’s an implicit idea that inequality comes at the expense of the poor.

There are cases where that’s true of course – where rent seeking and other privileges that people have taken from government power have allowed them to impoverish others – but most people who are poor are poor because they do not have the tools, the skills to contribute in the modern economy. They have circumstances that keep them from rising.

And I’ve been deeply saddened by the failure of people on so-called “our side*,” the people who believe in smaller government, to think at all about that. To think at all about human flourishing for the people who are struggling. And I think that that has just been a terrible mistake.

I think [politicians and intellectuals] have failed badly for our inability to make the case either for liberty in and of itself, and to understand how and why people are being left behind by our economy and what policies might help them, and I think that’s an utter failure of our side, and it’s a tragedy.

Russ RobertsConversations with Tyler

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*Russ Roberts describes himself [or at least, I think I recall hearing him describe himself] as a classical liberal

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