I have chosen, for your edification, some segments from economist Thomas Sowell's recent essays in TownHall on economic disparity. Bolding is mine.
People who are preoccupied, or even obsessed, with disparities in income
are seldom interested much, or at all, in the disparities in the
ability to create wealth, which are often the reasons for the
disparities in income.
Gross inequalities in skills and achievements have been the rule, not
the exception, on every inhabited continent and for centuries on end.
Nowhere have these achievements been random or representative of the
demographic proportions of the population of a country or of the world.
Nor have they been the same from one century to the next.
Yet these and numerous other disparities in achievement are resolutely
ignored by those whose shrill voices denounce disparities in rewards, as
if these disparities are somehow suspicious at best and sinister at
One of the ways of trying to reduce the vast disparities in economic
success, which are common in countries around the world, is by making
higher education more widely available, even for people without the
money to pay for it.
This can be both a generous investment and
a wise investment for a society to make. But, depending on how it is
done, it can also be a foolish and even dangerous investment, as many
societies around the world have learned the hard way.
What is not so obvious, but is painfully true nonetheless, is that
colleges and universities can also turn out vast numbers of people with
credentials, but with no marketable skills with which to fulfill their
expectations. There is nothing magic about simply being in ivy-covered
buildings for four years.
In countries around the world, people
with credentials but no marketable skills have been a major source of
political turmoil, social polarization and ideologically driven
violence, sometimes escalating into civil war. People with degrees
in soft subjects, which impart neither skills nor a realistic
understanding of the world, have been the driving forces behind many
extremist movements with disastrous consequences.
Anyone who has ever been in a Third World country, or even in a slum
neighborhood at home, is likely to wonder why there can be such dire
poverty among some people, while others are prospering.
politicians and intellectuals have tended to have simple answers to that
question, even if these simple answers have been different in different
A hundred years ago, the prevailing answer was that some people are
innately and genetically inferior. As often happens when a big idea seizes the imagination of
the intelligentsia, their strongest argument is that there is no
argument -- that "science" has already proved what they believe.
By the end of the 20th century, the pendulum
had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. Now differences in
achievements among classes, races or the sexes were seen as being a
result of discriminatory treatment.
But the innumerable factors affecting human achievements are not only
complex and hard to untangle, they offer neither politicians nor
intellectuals the opportunity to simply be on the side of the angels
against the forces of evil. Factors which present no opportunity to star
in a moral melodrama have often been ignored in favor of factors that
Different histories, geography, demography and cultures have left
various groups, races, nations and civilizations with radically
different abilities to create wealth.
Focusing attention and attacks on people who have greater
wealth-generating capacity -- whether races, classes or whatever -- has
had counterproductive consequences, including tragedies written in the
blood of millions. Whole totalitarian governments have risen to
dictatorial power on the wings of envy and resentment ideologies.
have all too often promoted these envy and resentment ideologies. There
are both psychic and material rewards for the intelligentsia in doing
so, even when the supposed beneficiaries of these ideologies end up
worse off. When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When
you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.
Both politicians and intellectuals have made their choice.