Suppose a society with three classes of people. A are the very well-off, B are well-off, C are worst-off. The distribution of this classes is shown in the following triangle.

enter image description here

As you see, there is no enough space in B for the people in C, most of the people is condemned to be worst-off.

No matter how effort is spend in C, there is no room in B. The same for B, there is not enough room to be in A.

Going from an upper level to a lower level is very rare, almost impossible.

So, no matter how hard people in C work, there is no room in B for them.

How this can be just? In essence, the well being of a few depends on the ill-being of the majority. This is the kind of society we live.

Now, to consider a society like this:

enter image description here

There is plenty of room in B for people in C if they work hard. The same for B going to A. This society should be more just since if C people make the effort the would go to B, eventually, if all work hard there would be no inequality, all will go to A, but societies are not like this.

Do you know philosophers who explore this line of reasoning?


  • What is the logic behind the existence of the second system, where somehow over half of society could live like the rich? If things were distributed more evenly, likely everyone would move toward the mean. Obviously technology and efficient usage of materials and labour could improve efficiency, but it still makes little sense to say the lower classes could simply move toward an imaginary "open space" above.
    – Michael
    Jan 15 at 15:18
  • 1
    There is nothing remotely like this in any society I know of. In Western societies, people move up and down class regularly, and the economies are usually expanding so the entire population is regularly moving up in absolute wealth. Excluding the homeless (which is a small population mostly caused by drugs and mental illness), the poorest people today live better than the richest people of a hundred years ago. Jan 15 at 17:48
  • 1
    What you describe is a Zero-sum game Jan 15 at 18:19
  • 1
    You may find this SEP entry on Game Theory helpful. Jan 15 at 19:35


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