A Terrifying Prospect

I’ve been meaning to comment on this for some time…

Paul Graham, relentlessly self-promoting Lisp hacker and Internet startup gazillionaire, wrote an essay in which he suggests that it’s a bad idea to try to eliminate massive economic inequality, because the existing system encourages innovation: for example, Mr. Graham started his company “ViaWeb,” now known as “Yahoo Store,” in order to gain financial security. If you try to eliminate inequality, you end up taxing rich people, and making poor people more financially secure. This would eliminate all the motivation for people like him to create startups and achieve financial security.

All I could think when I read this is “I for one shudder, I shudder, to imagine a world without Yahoo Store. All the economic inequality in the world is worth it because it gave us Yahoo Store.”

Which I guess was his point.

(Mind you, there’s a lot of good stuff in the essay, I just found the “threat of a world without Yahoo Store” argument against economic equality pretty comical.)