John C. Goodman

Why has the topic of "inequality" been getting so much attention in recent years? My theory: people on the left don't have solutions to any other problems.

But first things first. What do the writers who are obsessing about it mean by "inequality"? They basically mean inequality of income. That would make sense if we all agree that the most important way in which people are unequal is differences in income. But what if that isn't the case? Almost all of the people who are doing the complaining have chosen professions that earn less income than they could have had. That is, all these professors and editorial writers could have gone to law school or gotten an MBA or done something else that would have earned them more money. Obviously, money isn't the most important thing in their lives.

The list below shows some other ways in which people are unequal. These things basically can't be purchased. But if we were really concerned about life's unfairness, we could compensate those who have less of these attributes and tax those who have more.


Physical health

Mental health


Leisure time

Physical attractiveness

Athletic ability

Music ability

Life expectancy

On the last item, there has been a persistent gap between the life expectancies of men and women ? across all racial and ethnic groups. We don't want to lower the life expectancy of women and we don't know how to raise the life expectancy of men. But a general tax on women to be distributed to men would help redress some of nature's injustice (see Dwight Lee.)Plus, with this tax there would be very little of the avoidance and evasion behavior we see with the income tax. (Not many people would get a sex change just to avoid paying it.)

To return to college professors, for a moment, they have an enormous amount of time to do whatever they feel like doing. They only have, say, six to nine hours of required work every week (teaching) and even then they have enormous discretion over what they actually do. Plus they have the whole summer off. The term "leisure time" doesn't really capture what is going on here. Let's just say they have leisurely jobs. Contrast that with people who have no discretion over how they perform their jobs, who work 40 hours a week or more, who hate their work and who can't wait to retire. (College professors rarely want to retire.)

John C. Goodman

John C. Goodman is President of the Goodman Institute and Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute. His books include the widely acclaimed A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America and the award-winning Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and National Journal, among other media, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts.”