Saturday, March 8, 2014

The bottom 99 or the bottom 20?

Sendhil Mullainathan says we should worry a lot more about the opportunities of the bottom 20% than we do about the excesses of the top 1%. Mark Thoma is not happy with this, although he doesn't say why. Sure, Sendhil pushes a few liberal buttons, for instance by mentioning envy as a main source of concern about the top 1%. But as a Rawlsian on M-W-F and a utilitarian on T-Th-Sat*, I have to side with Professor M at least six days a week. Whether you want to bring up the worst off or the average, caring about the bottom 20 is clearly the way to go. Which is not to say we shouldn't be taxing the 1% at a 70% rate to improve the life chances of the bottom 20.

* What about Sundays? I save that day for libertarianism. Or at least, Sunday mornings.

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