La desigualdad buena y la mala

PRINCETON – En el panteón de las teorías económicas, la disyuntiva entre igualdad y eficiencia solía ocupar una posición destacada. El economista americano Arthur Okun, cuya obra clásica sobre ese asunto se titula Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff(“La gran disyuntiva entre igualdad y eficiencia”), creía que las políticas públicas giraban en torno a la gestión de la tensión entre esos dos valores. En época tan reciente como 2007, cuando el economista de la Universidad de Nueva York Thomas Sargent, al dirigirse a un curso que se graduaba en la Universidad de California en Berkeley, resumió el saber económico en doce principios breves, esa disyuntiva figuraba entre ellos.

La creencia de que el aumento de la igualdad requiere el sacrificio de la eficiencia económica se basa en una de las ideas más apreciadas en economía: la de los incentivos. Las empresas y las personas necesitan la perspectiva de unos ingresos mayores para ahorrar, invertir, trabajar denodadamente e innovar. Si la fiscalidad de las empresas rentables y de los hogares ricos atenúa dicha perspectiva, el resultado es la reducción del esfuerzo y un menor crecimiento económico. Los países comunistas, en los que los experimentos igualitarios provocaron el desastre económico, sirvieron durante mucho tiempo de “prueba A” en la argumentación contra las políticas redistributivas.

Sin embargo, en los últimos años ni la teoría económica ni la documentación empírica han sido favorables para la supuesta disyuntiva. Los economistas han presentado nuevos argumentos que muestran por qué unos buenos resultados no sólo son compatibles con la equidad distributiva, sino que, además, pueden incluso requerirla.

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