Economic inequality is an attractive issue for progressives, because it provides a permanent state of emergency — problems such as absolute poverty are in fact tractable, as the United States and other countries have shown, while the not-unrelated problem of economic growth is, though slippery, something that a great many nations with very different cultural characteristics have addressed, mainly with policies that are anathema to progressives.
But economic inequality — the fact that people will experience radically different economic outcomes, not always for reasons that strike us as fair — is never going away. Indeed, as societies grow wealthier and more integrated into the global economy, economic inequality tends to increase, a fact of life in such different countries as the United States, Sweden, Singapore, and India.
The enduring nature of economic inequality may be a political blessing for progressives — it provides a perennial source of discontent — but it is a problem, too, for one very important but under-appreciated reason: The main sources of economic inequality are not matters of public policy. They are instead rooted in the individual — including in the physical facts of the individual — and in the family, both of which have traditionally been considered outside of the public sphere. In a liberal society, some things are not political questions, but the Left, with its authoritarian mottos — “The personal is the political,” “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem,” etc. — is in its most fundamental assumptions the opposite of liberal: It is totalitarian.
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