I've reproduced here a response to questions regarding income equality (from "Brian"), as I think it informs on several aspects of the fundamental argument for greater equality (and this without needing to bring up the well known social consequences of inequality). It is worth the read:
"Hi Brian, to start with I will reply only to your first 'comment' as this seems to be the stem of much of the other commentary...
"By "God-appointed superiority" I mean the old 'chain of being' whereby the position of every being was ranked from God, the angels, Kings and Lords, down to the lowly peasants. Not something many believe any more, but it used to be a justification for inequality.
"By "Atheism of ethics" I mean in regard to the anything goes idea of business, the idea that if it 'makes a buck' and we can get away with it (i.e. it doesn't break any explicit 'rules') then we do it. I'm sure most of us are familiar with this idea.
"I wouldn't always equate an explicit "logic" with "ethics". We usually only need to have a 'feeling' for what is right and wrong to know what is right and wrong, and then pursue the choice we choose. I would argue that the incentive of financial accumulation that is built into our system overrides in many cases our sense of right and wrong, and thus we do some harm, because we see that others do it and get away with it, and thus we do it to get the kind of things they have.
"If you would like some "universalism" (and "logic"), I would say that it is our purpose to find fulfilment, to live and grow ourselves in our works and our lives. That's what our system should enable, and the incentives it provokes should gel with this. For us all to find fulfilment we need to live without harming others fulfilment. Control thus is a form of harm, as it restricts the freedom of us to find our fulfilment, which is as variable as the diversity of human life.
""…anyone, has the freedom to achieve whatever they want". Not everyone has the freedom you speak of. Many people are damaged by the system we live in. Lives are restricted through poverty, through harm from parents, from education that does not fit their needs or abilities, and from regulations and rules that restrict their movements, their expression and their participation. Our system could be much better than it is – it could enable a much greater freedom for all people to contribute their best according to their abilities and where and when they see a need.
""Why should we pay people who work hard the same as we pay the lazy?" What lazy people are these Brian? I don't know them. I know only people that if they were free, if they were enabled to make a contribution that realised their unique selves, then they would do it.
""Why should business owners forgo the rewards of their efforts?" If you mean simply the "owner" then I wonder what "efforts" you mean? The 'effort' of investing their wealth? There is often little effort in that. If you mean the effort of the business entrepreneur who is also perhaps owner, then yes, of course they must have an income from their efforts. I don't say that they should forego this. I simply say that after they have paid themselves (and other participants in the business) a reasonable income, that a half-share of the profit from their business go into a shared base income that everyone receives.
""Why should highly educated and talented people who contribute so much more, be paid the same as those who contribute less?" So much more what? Are you saying they contribute more effort? I think not. What do they contribute more of?
""How do you motivate people when they are not rewarded for their effort?" The motivation is our fulfilment, realising ourselves in what we do, contributing according to our abilities where we see there is a need and having the freedom to do so. That is the reward. Money is not the point, money is only a means to enable our fulfilment, an enabler that everyone should have a sufficient quantity of so they can make their contribution according to their own determination.
""Why have command economies failed constantly through time?" Relevance? I'm certainly not advocating a command economy. A command economy would fail instantly on fulfilment, as people need to be free to pursue their own fulfilment and the means to realise this is as diverse as the people themselves. Similarly, command economies can't meet the diverse needs of people for produce (or production), they are too diverse and too complex to be commanded.
""Can you explain logically, why income inequality is "bad"?" Because income equality reinforces the incentive of financial accumulation over the incentive of contributing for fulfilment without harm. When income inequality reigns then we become adhered to the pursuit of income which can operate in perverse ways, encouraging us to work wastefully at things that may give us little fulfilment and be of little benefit, of pursuing job-focussed work over balanced lives that incorporate leisure and family, and enabling, even justifying, the exploitation of other people who are less well-off than ourselves."
[This comment is drawn from a discussion started on the TED LinkedIn Group entitled: Income Equality - Should We Accept It?]