An open letter to Paul Graham
Rick Webb
1K66

Very astute and measured response. And yes, it would be interesting to read a PG essay which avoided the strawman argument. By reducing the point under discussion to a false dichotomy of “eliminating inequality” and “embracing inequality”, the original essay was built largely on a fundamentally flawed foundation — for example, if the political goal actually was to “eliminate” inequality, then cautions that this would kill startups would be meaningful; but since that’s a blatant strawman, such a caution becomes a little patronizing as well as misdirective. I’d like to see Paul support the idea that more inequality is always better if he believes that; or if he does not, then he can come back to earth and join the REAL discussion — what degrees of inequality are helpful and what degrees are harmful and where does our society fit along that curve that you reference. The original essay seems very “defensive” — feeling “hunted” and emotionally reactive to having one’s career potentially cast in a negative light. If PG can overcome that emotionality, perhaps his bright mind better develop his theme of how a society can wisely support rational levels of differential reward while avoiding dysfunctional runaway feedback loops of power and money begetting more power and money at the expense of democracy. (PG also omits addressing a core critique of excessive inequality — the erosion and corrosion of democracy in the face of increasing plutocracy; framing the issues in terms of poor vs rich rather than democracy vs plutocracy is probably a result of that emotional defensiveness)

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