What we all need to continue to believe, and to act on, is the conviction that it's wrong and socially destructive for the rich to forget those who still can use a hand up. Rather than investing in hedge funds and other forms of financial speculation divorced from the real economy, more of the wealthy need to accept the responsibility of investing in job-creating enterprises. At the same time, they need to make educating the workers to fill those jobs a principle focus of their philanthropy.
These are good ideas in the long term, but what do you do about now? What do we do for people before they get up to speed in the job market? For that, it seems, Riordan and Broad have nothing, because there's probably no alternative in the short term to income redistribution, and that, to them, is a bad thing. Immediate solutions like increasing tax rates for the rich or raising the minimum wage may not be wrong in principle, but the authors deem these remedies "counterproductive." They are counterproductive mainly because they may provoke capital flight. "When taxes rise to onerous levels," they observe, "the wealthy move on, taking their investments, tax payments and philanthropic contributions with them." The authors can't, or won't, imagine any remedy for this. That's understandable, I suppose, since the man of wealth has as much prerogative to seek his fortune elsewhere as the man without. But the inability of Riordan or Broad to imagine an alternative underscores the limitations of their approach to inequality. Let's take them at their word that they want less inequality, that they find greater parity of wealth desirable. Let's concede that their contributions toward education may help achieve their long-term goal. But for all that they find the idea admirable, they don't quite find it imperative. They're ready to tell their fellow millionaires what they should do, but might not dare tell them what they must do. The exhortation I quoted above is fine stuff, but if they can't or won't compel anyone to live up to their ideal, they may as well say,"These are things you should be doing, but if you don't -- it's too bad, but whatever." What really matters more to them: achieving greater equality or protecting the right of capital to go where it will? I suspect that Riordan and Broad would call this a false choice. Doing so would be their choice, but that wouldn't make it the truth.