Thomas Piketty and Capital in the 21st Century is just le dernier in what is likely to be a long list of writers telling us we have a problem with inequality in our society. And maybe they do in France but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case in Australia.
Sure, there is a disparity between what the poorest and richest have, but equality shouldn’t be measured in terms of wealth.
Equality should be measured in terms of whether it can be bridged by individuals in their lifetime, and whether it matters socially.
On both those counts, in Australia it is abundantly possible to make not just a very good living, but a fortune in your own lifetime, without regard to your background, and even people of quite modest means can mix easily with the “one percent” if they choose to, and, at least in my experience, be accepted for who they are.
Nothing brings this home to me more than the image of a big-gutted billionaire and his powerful media mate slugging it out in a public street, not far from a very popular beach which one of them calls home.
Jamie and David may be rich and powerful, but they behave just like any other larrikins. And they live, fight and love in much the same suburbs.
Societies thrive on specialisation, and one of the specialities you need in a society is people who make money. It makes sense that when they do make money you let them keep most of it so they can keep make even more. It’s a principle of investment that you funnel your investment to the one with the highest return.
Where the problems set in is if these entrepreneurial specialists divorce themselves from your society and behave like they’re not a part of it any more.
There is little evidence that this is happening in Australia today. Unfortunately, apart from the anecdotal, it is difficult to measure and prove this.