In a society that gives equal chance to all, how can we end up with so few owing so much?

I am wondering. At one point Bill Gates had as much wealth as 40%+ of Americans on the lower end of the scale. Right now in Russia (a democracy?) 7 oligarchs own 50% of Russia’s natural resources. How can this be? Can it be a good thing, something that society wills for itself as a societal good?

One of the things observed about early America was the relatively fair income distribution among the colonists. The discrepancies weren’t nonexistent but they were moderate, virtually putting all Americans in the same boat, affected by the same policies in roughly the same way.

Here one needs to listen to Amy Chua at Booknotes. She is the author of World on Fire. Chua asserts that globalization has created a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world. Chua illustrates the disastrous consequences arising when an accumulation of wealth by “market dominant minorities” combines with an increase of political power by a disenfranchised majority. Chua refutes the “powerful assumption that markets and democracy go hand in hand” by citing specific examples of the turbulent conditions within countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Bolivia and in the Middle East.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the % of the death tax should be confiscatory at rates high enough to keep America from having a de facto economic ruling class. Each generation must then makes its own way and make its own contribution. Whereas parents should be able to pass on enough money to give remaining children sufficient security, it should not be in such sums that they either are relieved of the responsibility to make a contribution to society or that they receive an unearned right to economically control the destiny of others.

If you have read this blog, you know how irritated I get at evangelical progressives’ attempts to turn the state into a Christian charity, a de facto church. But we do find in the Bible principles that are good in and of themselves. One of these is the practice of Jubilee, which, of course, we have no evidence that Israel ever practiced. Every 50 years land returned to its original owners, indentured slaves were set free, etc. In other words, the chess pieces were placed in their original position and the game was begun again. It is clear that the Bible was protecting Israel from economic slavery and tyranny and the evils attendant to  intergenerational wealth.

Of course, Bill Gates is not an example of inherited wealth. In America even the poor think Gates should be able to keep his money. His achievements stand for what we think could one day be true of us all. But what does become a problem would be if Gates’ kids by virtue of inheritance gain unearned power over the welfare of others.