Matt Ridley has another excellent post, which I like especially for the facts it conveys. However I do disagree with him on two counts:
He writes that people are not "wrong to resent inequality in income or wealth".
Well, they are.
The other passage that I object to is the below one, in which he seems to present the common aversion toward inequality as an unalterable genetic feature:
... surely we always have and always will care more about relative than absolute differences. This is no surprise to evolutionary biologists. The reproductive rewards went not to the peacock with a good enough tail, but to the one with the best tail. A few thousand years ago, the bloke with one more cow than the other bloke got the girl, and it would have cut little ice to try to reassure the loser by pointing out that he had more cows than his grandfather, that they were better cows, or that he had more than enough cows to feed himself anyway. What mattered was that he had fewer cows.
I think he's wrong. The matter is amenable to cultural evolution, i.e. learning and unlearning. No less than slavery, matriarchy, or the habit not to let women acquire a driver's license. Unfortunately people are constantly made to learn that inequality is outrageous. Tell them a different story, and they will come to their senses.
However, the ritual of protesting inequality serves as a lever for the attainment of ulterior political motives. It is one of those problems that don't exist unless politicians create them. And in this manner they create demands of the many over the few which can be easily accommodated and translated into political success/survival (i.e. reelection and more resources for the state in its capacity as a the tool for politicians).
Like global warming and other surrogate problems that are made up to call for more political power and to attract money and other rents, people don't think much about inequality, let alone in an intellectually serious manner; instead they are being told about inequality's scandalous nature over and over and over again, until they have been disarmed intellectually to the point of being convenient parrots.
One of the subliminal functions of the rhetoric of inequality is to keep alive the most fundamental anti-capitalist myth, according to which inequality is a matter of injustice: the rich being rich because they exploit the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact of the matter is: it is impossible to give a principled account of the need for equality, nor does equality serve a desirable economic function.
The call for equality is just a rhetorical slight of hand used to re-baptise under a nice sounding name the good old-fashioned practices of expropriation, discrimination and self-enrichment by special rights. To achieve equality one needs to practice glaring inequality - in the name of those who happen to be stronger than their victims.
The demand for equality is the robbers' new excuse for their age-old business. Equality is the motto of the greedy.
Find Matt Ridley's article at the source.
See also my Inequality and Justice.