By Michael Lind, Tablet
The great civil rights leaders of the 1960s were right to champion universal, inclusive social programs.
Americans on the left, right, and center agree that America has too much inequality. They just can’t agree on what kind of inequality to complain about. Unable to agree on what the problem is, they cannot agree on the solution. Three different definitions of inequality are offered: economic inequality, cultural inequality, and inequality as demographic disparity.
Economic inequality is the focus of the remnants of the old socialist, social democratic, and labor left. Old-fashioned socialists propose to abolish the class system by abolishing class distinctions. Old-fashioned social democrats propose to ameliorate the class system by transforming basic needs—health care, education, housing, dependent care—from luxuries purchased out of after-tax wages into goods that are either publicly provided or subsidized by government. Old-fashioned labor liberals may support social democratic programs, but they are skeptical about the benign nature of government and would prefer to enhance the power of workers to use collective bargaining to raise their wages, minimizing their dependence on employers and government alike.