Reading Is Fundamental, Alex Tabarrok

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I need better defenders. Photo: LARRY DOWNING/Corbis

In my response to Greg Mankiw’s absurd defense of the one percent, I argued that Mankiw is wrong to automatically equate income with productivity, because the two are not the same. I also argued that rich parents use their resources to make their children more productive.

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok detects a contradiction:

The first claim is that the wealthy aren’t more productive than the less wealthy and the latter claim is that they are more productive but that this is unfair. The two claims are in tension (perhaps a synthesis is possible but none is offered).

What? It would be one thing if I argued that rich people are absolutely no more productive than poor people. But I didn’t argue that. I just argued that income and productivity are not synonyms.

It’s weird that Tabbarok insists I offered no synthesis, because if he looked down a few paragraphs, he’d see I wrote, “Market incomes are a useful but imperfect measure of social or economic value.”

Oddly, Tabarrok’s weird, wrong nitpicking is the only response I’ve seen to my detailed critique of Mankiw’s terrible argument.