In his most recent New York Times column, Tyler Cowen writes about two competing goals concerning economic distribution:
Income equality is about bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, while economic mobility is about elevating the poor as rapidly as possible. Finding ways to increase economic mobility should be our greater concern.
I agree completely. In fact, I find it hard to understand how anyone can be concerned with income equality rather than economic mobility.
First, it seems clear that people should be concerned with economic mobility. If one is concerned about the poor, the relevant normative question is not how much poorer than the rich they are, but how high their standard of living is. If the only choice is increasing a poor person’s income by $100 while also increasing a rich person’s by $1000, one should do it. Otherwise, you do not really care about the poor.