The Rhetoric of Economic Policy: Inequality vs. Dispersion

Rhetoric matters in economic policy debates. Would allowing people to purchase health insurance from the federal government be a public option, a government plan, or a public plan? Would investment accounts in Social Security be private accounts, personal accounts, or individual accounts? (See my post on the rule of three.) Are tax breaks really tax cuts or spending in disguise? Is the tax levied on the assets of the recently departed an estate tax or a death tax?

In an excellent piece in the New York Times, Eduardo Porter describes another important example, how we characterize differences in income:

Alan Krueger, Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser, offers a telling illustration of the changing views on income inequality. In the 1990s he preferred to call it “dispersion,” which stripped it of a negative connotation.

 In 2003, in an essay called “Inequality, Too Much of a Good Thing” Mr. Krueger proposed that “societies must strike a balance between the beneficial incentive effects of inequality and the harmful welfare-decreasing effects of inequality.” Last January he took another step: “the rise in income dispersion — along so many dimensions — has gotten to be so high, that I now think that inequality is a more appropriate term.”

4 thoughts on “The Rhetoric of Economic Policy: Inequality vs. Dispersion”

  1. Last October, I argued that “tuition hikes” at the University of California improved affordability for low- and middle-income (via the redistributional mechanisms of financial aid: To my surprise, I received a tremendously hostile response from the very groups that advocated for greater accessibility of higher education. Rhetoric is indeed important.

  2. Tous ces projets supplémentaires n’a en rien entamé son enthousiasme pour sa passion vestimentaire primaire, cependant. En 2008, le Londonien a considérablement élargi son empire, ouvrant des boutiques à travers le monde dans les capitales de la mode de New York, Londres et Milan, ainsi qu’à Los Angeles et Las Vegas.

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