Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy by William Letwin

By William Letwin

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Extra info for Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy

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8. It would seem to follow that a more appropriate egalitarian policy would be to proportion each person's consumption allowance to his needs. What would be equalised is consumption allowance per unit of need. It becomes immediately apparent that to do this would contradict equality of total consum ption and of total satisfaction. As to practical implementation: a government following this policy would be obliged to assess the true extent of each person's needs. The technical difficulty, indeed impossibility, of doing so does not require close demonstration; suffice it to say that the armies of different nations evidently hold quite varied views about the 'needs' of the soldiers whom they provision.

Some, such as those of tool-makers and psychiatrists, require particularly long and difficult training. If persons doing such jobs were paid no more than those whose work is safer, pleasanter and easier to qualify for, then equality of pay would contradict equality of effort. Since it might be expected that where all workers are paid equally, few would volunteer to do jobs which are especially burdensome, the need to have such work done would point to forcible direction of labour. And nothing can better illustrate inequality of burden or sacrifice than the practice of conscripting people into forms of service which, though highly valuable to the beneficiaries, are repugnant to the unlucky individuals forced to perform them.

Even though the bulk of private saving were AGAINST EQUALITY: READINGS 37 displaced by forced public saving, implemented by high rates of taxation, even the most oppressive taxation conceivable would not extinguish every individual's desire to save privately. Even though private gifts and bequests were declared to be unlawful, they could not be extirpated absolutely without first dissolving all families, friendships and close human associations. And even though the possibility of 'unearned' income were stopped by putting an end to all private investment in producers' capital goods, it would still be possible for people to get 'unearned' incomes in non-pecuniary form by investing their savings in consumers' capital goods.

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