A serious moral question arose during today’s seminar: Is inequality in wealth a problem, in and of itself?
Specifically, if there are two individuals or states where one is poor and one is rich, and both are getting wealthier but the richer state is getting even richer faster, is this a problem?
Within the question, there are two sub-cases. In the first of those, the growth in the rich state is completely separate from that of the poor state. Imagine they are completely disconnected and have no engagement with one another. Does the fact that the GDP of the rich state has risen by 50% and that of the poor state by only 5% matter, in a moral sense?
The other case is that the 50% growth in the rich state is somehow causally tied to the 5% growth in the poor state. Specifically, the latter would be higher if the former was lower. Now, that is entirely possible, but this is a different moral category. In the first case, one would have to appeal to general moral cosmopolitanism. In the latter case, we can refer to a moral tradition akin to that of the law of tort: you have harmed me, and you owe me something. This does not speak to the fundamentally immorality of inequality.
All contributions to this discussion are encouraged.
[Update: 7:00pm] To be clear, I do not dispute the fact that it is virtuous for the rich to help the poor. I am a firm believer in the moral value of philanthropy. The question above is about obligation, not charity.