1. What’s the problem with inequality?
2. Is inequality a problem in itself?
3. What would make it a problem in itself?
Is it that inequality is inherently unjust? Why is it inherently unjust?
Or is it that inequality is the source of other problems? That is, it causes other problems.
Or is it that inequality is a combination of bad in itself and a source of other problems? That is, inequality contributes to the other problems - makes them worse.
4. Poverty and declining social mobility are the problems most often attributed to inequality.
5. Inequality is sometimes considered at least partly responsible for other problems as well, due to the political leverage exercised by the super-rich and their proxies, e.g., large corporations.
These other problems include lack of universal healthcare and affordable housing.
6. How do we know that inequality causes other problems as opposed to being a symptom of those problems? How do we know that inequality is even related to other problems?
Granted, there’s some evidence linking inequality with other problems. But correlation alone does not demonstrate causation.
7. If inequality is merely a symptom of these other problems, then we should worry less about fixing inequality and focus more on fixing the other problems.
8. To establish whether, or in which cases, inequality causes problems, we need to control for the effects of confounders.
That is, other factors that covary with inequality but in themselves account for the problems.
9.. One way to control confounders is to “treat” other factors that contribute to the problems.
Consider the problems of poverty, stalled social mobility, lack of affordable housing and lack of affordable healthcare.
Factors that contribute to these problems include poor education/skill levels, economic vulnerabilities of single parents, technological change, volatile labor markets, poor productivity in the construction industry, and corrupt practices in the healthcare industry.
10. Another way to frame what I’m saying: To test whether inequality is the ultimate cause of societal ills, first treat the proximate causes of those ills and see what happens.
If the problems become manageable, then get over the obsession with inequality.
If the problems remain, consider alternative hypotheses and test them.