Ford Hall Forum debates economic inequality

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Ford Hall Forum debates economic inequality

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Throughout the recent election season, Americans’ concerns about the economy were on the rise. After the election, people continue to raise questions about economic inequality and whether it is good or bad for the country.

Monday night’s Ford Hall Forum hosted at the Old South Meeting House focused on those ideas, and the notion of whether or not economic inequality was fair.

Yaron Brook, executive director at Ayn Rand Institute and coauthor of the book “Equality Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality,” and Jonathan Haughton, a senior economist at The Beacon Hill Institute and economics professor at Suffolk University, engaged in a heated debate about economic inequality. Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute monitored the event.

Brook began the debate by arguing that Americans only recently started worrying about the economic issues. He said that for most of the nation’s history, people have been individualistic, so they cared about themselves.

“It’s only in more recent times that they started really caring,” said Brook. “I think there’s two reasons. One reason is the collectivization of society and the second is that there are now real problems in America in our economy.”

Haughton disagreed and claimed that the world we live in does not let the individual thrive.

“Society is contributing to what we make, what we earn, and therefore in effect is contributing to the inequality as well,” said Haughton. “So we are not in an ideal world for the individual, in any chance he deserves everything he gets.”

The debate moved to the subject of property rights.

Haughton argued that property rights are hard to elucidate, but they are defined socially. He used the example of smoking cigarettes inside the Meeting House. The reason no one is allowed to smoke inside is because it violates everyone else’s right to clean air, Haughton said.

Haughton also said that, as a believer in markets, he thinks the market would solve economic problems instead of the government if property rights were clearly defined.

Brooke rebutted, saying the smoking ban violates the right of the owner of the building, who should decide whether occupants are allowed to smoke because he owns the building, and thus owns the air inside it.

Stergios then asked was whether greater inequality is good even if it comes with substantial growth?

Brook said we need to embrace inequality because having inequality means having freedom. He said a person can choose a career that earns a low or high income based on what they want to do for the rest of their life. People have the freedom to decide how much money they want to make, and therefore where they want to stand economically.

The floor opened to a question and answer session during the final hour so audience members could talk about the main points that mattered to them. Questions about taxation and redistribution of wealth are some of the topics voices from the crowd asked about.

Freshman international economics major Jordan Albrizio attended the forum and found the two men’s opposing viewpoints helped bring new perspectives to a controversial topic.

“I thought the forum was very interesting and insightful. Both men, Haughton and Brook, presented opposing viewpoints on topics that are relevant in today’s society,” she said in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

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