[Guest post by
Jim Manzi, a sharp writer with whom I frequently disagree, has a post up at National Review that made me do a double-take. It’s about income inequality—and it’s hardly a persuasive argument.
Manzi, who lives in Europe, admits that income inequality is “a symptom of deep problems,” but he bristles at “the cartoon of ‘Europe equal,
To support this revision, Manzi groups all 27 European Union countries together to come up with an EU-wide measure of inequality. He finds that, by this measure, “
The grouping method is, erm, interesting. Its most obvious feature is to basically eliminate the question of how different nations’ policies have affected inequality by collapsing very different governments and societies into one undifferentiated whole.
Manzi does gesture towards a variety of EU-wide policies to indicate why most of the continent can be viewed as one unit, but this is a wildly distorting move. After all, there is surely something interesting about the phenomenon of European countries which have thriving economies, generous welfare states, and low levels of inequality—three things which, according to prevailing conservative dogma, cannot possibly coexist. In fact, eliminating the role of discrete national governments implicitly gives
But there’s another, perhaps even more crippling, problem with the analysis. “Europe” is a pretty big category, and it’s not at all evident that it can be appropriately compared to the
*A note for the lazy: If you scrolled down to the bottom because this post was too long, here’s an even simpler demonstration of Manzi’s folly: The CIA already constructed a ranking of inequality by its most common measure, the Gini index—and it included the European Union, allowing for easy comparison with the