Inequality is inevitable, aim for equitability

A woman begs for change near Herald Square on Dec 21, 2015 in New York City.
A woman begs for change near Herald Square on Dec 21, 2015 in New York City.PHOTO: AFP

I commend Professor Paul Krugman for his observation that while "inequality is inevitable, the vast inequality of America today isn't". His commentary ("Is vast inequality necessary?"; last Saturday) is a realistic analysis of the issue of income inequality.

We need to move towards an acceptable goal of economic development.

The problem is the widening gap between the very rich and the very poor, which is becoming increasingly hard to bridge.

The moral question has to be posed: Where is the sense of justice when the rich are luxuriating in their soaring income while the poor are wallowing in their miserable pittance?

To be sure, inequality is inevitable, given the different levels of performance by people with varying degrees of competence.

We cannot expect equal remuneration for unequal capabilities. "To each according to his ability" is still a valid maxim.

It is essential for the successful to be fairly rewarded. But it is also necessary for the not so successful to be assisted to meet their basic human needs of food and shelter, and to have second chances.

It is a delicate balance. Are we pampering selfish concerns or promoting the common good? We are to cater to people's needs and not to their greed.

The aim is to reach a more equitable culture, to ensure the safety and security of all people.

The common way of getting there is to render a solution that is ethically or legally just and reasonable under the circumstances. This is moral justification.

It is encouraging and heartening to see highly successful entrepreneurs giving their wealth to charitable causes, more businesses incorporating corporate social responsibility, and more people engaging in social enterprise.

These moves are in the trajectory of social good. They are enshrining the cooperative spirit for mutual benefit. These developments augur well for our common future.

Yap Kim Hao (Rev Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Inequality is inevitable, aim for equitability'. Print Edition | Subscribe