There are two kinds of equality – formal equality and substantive equality. Formal equality means that everyone has the right to take part in the race. Nobody can be denied the right to participate based on arbitrary factors like the colour of their eyes. Everyone has the right to present themselves at the starting line, and when the gun goes off it’s each man for himself and may the fastest runner win the race. Substantive equality means that everyone has an equal chance of winning the race, meaning that those who are slow runners should be given a head start – they will obviously need more time than the faster runners, so it’s only fair that they should be allowed to start running before the gun goes off. Alternatively, they could run a shorter race, by being allowed to start at some point halfway down the track rather than join everyone else at the starting line.
Basic human liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom to acquire and hold private property are more important than economic prosperity in an abstract sense. Given a choice between living in a rich country where basic human liberties are denied (so you would live an affluent life swimming in money but you could go to prison merely for voicing your opinion) or living in a poor country where you are free to say what you like without fear of persecution, most people would choose to hold onto their basic liberties and take their chances with the poverty situation. After all, once you have secured your basic liberties you are free to work on attaining prosperity to the best of your ability and nobody will stand in your way. But if you start with a situation where your basic liberties are denied then attaining prosperity is pointless; if you get arbitrarily and unfairly locked up and all your stuff seized with no right of appeal, that would be the end of your personal economic prosperity. Fundamental civil liberties should therefore be understood as a prerequisite for sustainable economic prosperity.
Many people today assume that life is ideally supposed to be fair, so they take it as self-evident that others must be forced by law to provide various things from within their own resources, in order to make everything fair. In other words, everyone has to share nicely even if they don't want to. Just like we learned in kindergarten, except this time there is the force of law behind it. The assumption is that the pursuit of fairness justifies legal interventions that redistribute wealth, even when that entails an encroachment upon liberty. 'Because fairness!' is the modern rallying cry behind every legal intervention. This is particularly so in the world of work. We expect employers to be fair to workers and we expect all workers to be treated equally, because that way it's fair. Ultimately everyone should end up with more or less equal amounts of wealth, so that it's fair. The desire to achieve a moral ideal in society is certainly compelling. Most people would like to expend their efforts making the world a better place. The only problem is: Other People. When other people don't agree with your vision of the good life, coercion by force of law becomes necessary.
When people support notions of economic equality it's not always clear exactly what they have in mind. In Capitalism and Freedom Friedman challenges us to think about the meaning of 'equality' in the context of a market economy. If we are to translate the ideals of equality into reality we'll need a conceptual framework that's a bit more sophisticated than 'everyone having the same amount of stuff' or 'paying everyone the same wage'.
This is the time of year when everybody resolves to be good, to be a better person than they were last year, and to generally be nice to everyone. Most people are good people, or at least they want to be thought of as good people who do what they can to help others out of the kindness of their own heart.
It's official. The Economist reports that America is the country where people care the least about inequality. Many Americans care about inequality, sure, just not as high a proportion as, say, the number of people in Sweden or just about any other rich country where people care very much about inequality and have the high taxes to prove it.
The best thing to do if you get fired is to gather up your worldly possessions and hit the road in search of your next adventure.
The concept of job security has four completely different meanings:
Employment ‘at will’ is the idea that a worker can quit at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. Similarly the employer can fire any of the workers at any time for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all.
Is there a necessary link between individualism and competitive markets?Ultimately competitive markets are our best bet not because we want to bow down and worship The Market and follow market forces wherever they may lead, to whatever end, but because they serve us best in allowing us to be free to be who we are, each of us in our own individual and marvelous way.