The Inequality Trap

Here’s a reply I provided over at project syndicate to an article entitled The Inequality Trap. He was discussing the growing gap in wealth across the globe.

Thank you, I enjoyed your article very much.

The issue of economic inequality has vexed and bedeviled philosophers for centuries. In all that time it seems that there has yet to advance an economic program that a majority of those subject to it believe is just. But in just the last couple of years a program known as General Federalism, as far as I am aware, appears to have addressed this problem for the first time.

To describe the program we should first elaborate on the western notion of “equity in law”. This concept is a legal precept regarding the procedures by which judges render decisions. Once a legislature enacts a law the courts enter the picture when real-world events occur and an application of the statutory laws of the legislature must be interpreted and applied to them. “Equity in law” refers to the judge’s obligation to identify the statutory laws material to the real-world event, then reach a conclusion about what those statutory laws mean in the context of that event. This is because the legislature cannot write law detailed enough to address every possible event in the real world; so the full meaning of statutory law can never be provided by a legislature.

General Federalism distinguishes statutory and natural law – which are euphemisms for law and economics –both of which are legitimate objects of the social contract. In both cases the normative role of the program is to assign value within society, whether by the application of equity in statutory law or equity in natural law or both. The justification for legitimizing equity in natural law as an object of the social contract lies in the concept of the deliberate Actor, something taken up in more detail at my site and others. But the point here is that equity in natural law usually extends in reasonable fidelity to equity in valuable consideration (roughly – the act of buying something using a defined currency).
Thus the problem isn’t a disparity of wealth across the globe. There is nothing unjust about that in and of itself. The problem occurs when valuable consideration completes under conditions in which natural law alone applies; that is, equity in natural law does not issue (which is pretty much the status quo, universal standard in contemporaneous human society). This, not surprisingly, is the same thing as affirming that natural law understood generally lacks definition and justice requires consideration of natural law as a fully defined construct. The best way to understand this is by an example.

A man is the victim of an injustice (a tort) by an abuser (a tortfeasor) and the man litigates against his abuser, seeking relief under law and equity. The victim is poor and the abuser extremely wealthy. In valuable consideration, the services of attorneys are secured by both parties. Due to the difference in wealth and income, the victim’s attorneys are vastly outclassed by the attorneys secured by the tortfeasor. Indeed, the mere act of dragging out the case and incurring great expense for the victim is often enough – and is too often used – to “win” a case. Being an adversarial system, justice (colloquial meaning, not legal) need not necessarily make in consequence of the due process afforded both sides. Therefore, the natural law that legitimately allows this vast difference in wealth does not imply that this advantage in wealth should extend to a determination of tort and remedy for some arbitrary matter. In other words, the matter of whether or not a tort has occurred should be independent of the natural laws that resulted in the difference in wealth between the two parties. The status quo is that they are de facto not independent and are strongly linked. Conversely, and for the first time in history, a program, General Federalism, guarantees independence and requires both equity in law and equity in economics; a combination called General Equity in this paradigm. All Specific Performance (roughly – a court order) rendered under General Federalism is by the application General Equity and the constitution requires its use.

In the example given the court of original jurisdiction would require some means of equivalent representation (or a legislature could enact a law to achieve that generally) or an appellate court would set aside on the grounds of it denying the victim the equal protection of the law.
The tragedy that is befalling the majority of the world’s population is not occurring because of differences in income in and of itself, but as a result of most of the collateral (and grossly unjust) effect of this income difference.

– kk

Mentmore Towers - Side Entrance -

Mentmore Towers - Side Entrance - - 296475 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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