I'm enough of a touchy-feey sociology-lover to believe that a good chunk of the utility the rich derive from their conspicuous consumption is transferred to them from the poor: the happiness America's working poor and middle class derive from the compensation distribution--given their compensation, the compensation of the rich, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous--seems to me to be certainly less than that of their counterparts back in 1973.
The easiest and most important thing the government can do to neutralize the adverse consequences of rising inequality is to make the tax system more progressive, not less. A reality-based government would react to growing pretax inequality by taxing the rich more, and subsidizing the poor more (through policies like the EITC) as well.
Beauty, like wealth, is relative--it benefits its possessor only insofar as they are lovelier than the women, or handsomer than the men, around them. Presumably, if we disfigured all the good looking actors in Hollywood...Just think how happy America could be made if Cindy Crawford had saddlebags and a squint.
...why is this so much more horrifying than the idea of taking the fruits of people's labours--most of which were gotten fairly honesty, by dint of hard work and delayed gratification
Point Megan. Read her whole post.
Rather than beauty, I like to use the example of height. Should we try to improve social equality by doing things to tall kids to stunt their growth? Hear, hear. Comes the revolution, Tyler Cowen and I will make all-state in basketball.
While we're on the subject, Megan is rather tall. Height and intelligence were recently found to be positively correlated. She thought that finding deserved a blog post. I did not. Neither did Tyler.