By James Kwak
In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman asks what types of inequality are ethically justifiable. In particular (pp. 164–66):
“Inequality resulting from differences in personal capacities, or from differences in wealth accumulated by the individual in question, are considered appropriate, or at least not so clearly inappropriate as differences resulting from inherited wealth.
“This distinction is untenable. Is there any greater ethical justification for the high returns to the individual who inherits from his parents a peculiar voice for which there is a great demand than for the high returns to the individual who inherits property? …
“Most differences of status or position or wealth can be regarded as the product of chance at a far enough remove. The man who is hard working and thrifty is to be regarded as ‘deserving’; yet these qualities owe much to the genes he was fortunate (or fortunate?) enough to inherit.”
I think Friedman is correct here. This is basically the same point that I made in my earlier post: the money that you make because you are smart and hard working is the product of good fortune just as much as the money that you inherit directly from your parents.