Friday, 14 December 2007

Inequality, two

Let's get a little more conceptual, staying with the video example.

Why should a convinced free-marketeer like me worry about inequality? Well, I believe in freedom of contract, but I cannot happily accept that one person can buy the ritual humiliation of other people before a global audience. (There is no freedom-of-speech, S&M roleplay, deconstructing-power-games context here, by the way. The context is purely commercial.) The problem, I think, is that this violates the basic respect for human dignity which, among other things, justifies human rights. These things would not exist in a decent society.

On the other hand, I do not want to say that the women who made this movie were misguided. (Basic idea behind rational choice theory: your objects of study are not stupid.) Instead I suppose that they were desperate. That leads me to think that the real problem with inequality is not the customer’s relative wealth, but the women’s absolute poverty. Most reasonably well-off people wouldn’t eat shit on video for a million dollars. (Some people probably would – humans vary – and I’m OK with that as a choice, I take my libertarianism about sex seriously. I’m not OK with extremely poor people being used as playthings.)

That in turn makes me think that the best remedy for “obscene inequality” is pro-poor growth, as fast as possible. As for the expensive cocktails, well, the vulgar new rich will be always with us, and with a bit of luck their children will found libraries.