Pope Francis tweeted, “Inequality is the root of social evil.” The pope is worse than wrong.

In a free market—a market in which government consistently protects people’s rights—some people earn more than others do, a relative few earn vast fortunes, and each individual is free to keep, spend, or give away what he earns according to his own judgment. One consequence of government protecting people’s rights is that people are unequal in how much they earn and own.

Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Charles Koch, and the Walton family (among many others) amassed huge fortunes by building enormously successful businesses that provide customers with valuable goods and services. Many people work hard in school, strive to excel in their careers, and invest their wealth prudently; and, of course, they usually amass more wealth than do those who slack off, collect welfare rather than work, and squander their money.

Government can curb or eliminate such inequality in only two basic ways. Government can forcibly seize some people’s wealth and give it to others, or government can forcibly prevent some people from earning or acquiring more wealth than others. In other words, government can curb or eliminate such inequality only by initiating force and thus violating people’s moral right to earn and use their wealth as they see fit. . . .

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