Three rules for good pundit behaviour, or if you like: how to obstruct the debate on inequality in three easy steps

Inequality is increasing in Canada. Or is it?

A short report on the topic released by a major Canadian bank includes the bold heading “Income inequality has been unchanged in Canada — say what?”. This apparently contrarian finding has been seized upon by at least one influential pundit in a way that only serves to obstruct constructive public policy discussion.

A debate is in order, not over whether inequality has increased—because it has—but why this is important, and what could, or for that matter should, be done about it.

But this sort of discussion requires the best of our public commentators, and in this post I offer three rules for good pundit behaviour. Economic statistics can be confusing and they can be used in confusing ways, purposely or not, and so these rules might also be a set of general guideposts for the average reader to help separate fact from fiction, since after all we can’t expect pundits to always follow them.

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Charles Murray, a Libertarian who worries about America coming apart along the seams of class

The major point in Charles Murray‘s book—Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010—is that the United States “is coming apart at the seams—not ethnic seams, but the seams of class.”

You can watch him summarize the major messages of his book in this February 14th interview hosted by the TVO program The Agenda.

The book has proved to be instantly provocative. Toward the end of this interview, at about 13 minutes and 50 seconds, Murray states: “I don’t do solutions very well.”

So why all the buzz?

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