Pie Slices. Income inequality

More Thanksgiving Economics

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Nov 28, 2013

Our annual Thanksgiving post:

In 1623, 2 years after the first Thanksgiving, Governor William Bradford was worried about Plymouth’s food supply. The problem, he concluded, was that people shared whatever they produced. Because they expected “able and fit” young men to work harder and then give their food to others, all worked less. As Bradford explained, ”So they began to think how they…could…obtain a better crop than they had done…At length…the Governor…so assigned to every family a parcel of land…This had very good results for it made all hands very industrious…”

Income equality was a problem in 1623 and remains a dilemma in 2013. In 1623, the questions were about redistributing the food supply from those who produced it to those who needed it. Now though, redistribution questions are about spending on the Affordable Care Act, entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and marginal tax rates.

But still, like Governor Bradford and the people of Plymouth, we are talking about the size of the pie and how unequal each slice should be.

Sources and Resources: My quote and facts about 17th century Plymouth Plantation are from here and here while our contemporary equality or efficiency is the focus of Arthur Okun’s book.

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