Been studying income inequality a lot lately. If you haven't gotten pissed off today--learn about Irving Kristol's thoughts on the subject. What would you tell Kristol if he were still alive today?

Kristol approaches the topic of income inequality condescendingly, wishing to rewrite historical fact for ideological convenience. For instance, Kristol boldly claims that periods of significant income inequality are associated with social peace, not turbulence. How irresponsible a claim: did Haymarket not occur due to demands for fairness in work and pay? Did Mother Jones not march an army of child laborers to the home of Teddy Roosevelt, oh that great “progressive reformer?” Is it not true that in 2012, miners in Marikana, South Africa did not strike in demands for an increase in their despicable wage, only to be met with the tyrannical bullets of the police, resulting in the deaths of 34 laborers? How about the clashes between Occupy protesters and militarized police, or the violent encounters between the leftists in Greece with the reactionary neo-Nazis?

In an effort to delegitimize the opponents of income inequality, Kristol describes how not everyone is “bad off” equally around the globe. Moreover, he haphazardly dismisses notions of relative and absolute deprivation, insisting that economic methodology fails to “tease few unquestionable inferences.” Furthermore, Kristol argues that “economic comfort” is merely one measure of wellbeing, and that other social factors ought to be fully considered. Of course, this is precisely what Wilkinson and Pickett fulfilled in The Spirit Level, finding that discrepancies in health and social wellbeing so obviously correlate with one variable – income inequality.

Of course, a neoliberal tirade would not be complete without childish logical fallacies. Kristol speaks glowingly of a poor, hardworking Chinese immigrant family that lived in a crowded dwelling, yet managed to see that all of their children became college graduates, climbing the social ladder. Meanwhile, the various “lazy welfare neighbors” of this exceptional Chinese family suffer from “dependency-induced corruption.” Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of social research methods understands that exceptions do not discredit trends. And, Mr. Kristol, trends there are indeed – just not the sort that fit your savage ideology. As Wilkinson and Pickett show in "The Spirit Level", the U.S. has the lowest social mobility out of the rich Western democracies. The societies with the greatest income equality have the highest, i.e. all of Scandinavia. The second logical fallacy is Kristol’s building of a straw-man, speaking for the entire sociological discipline, and blaming it for “tainting” the discussion on income inequality, and perverting social science with “quasi-socialist” ideology. The intellectual dishonesty in Kristol’s writing raises the question as to why Foreign Affairs would choose to republish this article.

There is more to say on his phony claims about “subjective” placement in the socioeconomic hierarchy and his dismissal of Marx’s notion of false-consciousness, but I will save those comments for class. It is crucial to note that this article was written in 1980, at the dawn of Reaganomics. Unfortunately for Kristol, the economic picture that resulted does not suit his wildly inaccurate understanding of the world.

/r/sociology Thread Link -