Currency, State and national boarders, the justice system, all things that only exist in our minds because we choose to believe them.
Yes, exactly, and there are some more things without which no one could ever become a billionaire.
Currency in particular, but even more so Corporations, owning more land than you can personally defend (title deeds), patents and copyrights, none of these things exist except that government creates and enforces them.
What is your definition of unearned inequality?
Any difference in wealth due, in whole or in part, to anything other than differences in talent, creativity, and work ethic. You seem to have the underlying base assumption that the reason some people are richer than others is 100% because rich people earned more wealth through innovation, while most of the others in this thread acknowledge that may be a factor sometimes, but believe it is not the only one.
My justification is that I don't think our current system enhances unearned inequality and I dont think it needs to be corrected.
An entity like WalMart could not exist without government protection. WalMart makes deals with lawmakers, gets (anit-competitive) tax breaks, moves in and, due to its size and policies, is able to undercut local stores and still make a profit, eventually running them out of business. The local stores may have sourced locally, and/or paid more than minimum wage, and at the very least was owned by an individual, probably doing well for them self but not rich. Now all the employees as well as the owner have to get new jobs, and the primary employer left is... the WalMart. Any customers previously loyal to the local shop now have to shop at WalMart.
They are an easy and popular target, but retell the same story for any of the 100s of nationwide chains, and notice that almost every strip mall in America has the same set of names on the signs.
Without Adam Smiths "perfect competition", transactions aren't really voluntary anymore. If there are only 2 or 3 affordable sources of food a reasonable distance from home, you have to get your food from one of them.
Without government issued corporate charters, this would not be true, and small business people could actually compete in a free market.
If you own 20 houses and 3 apartment buildings, you can easily afford to buy more. And more. Until you have a rental empire, and go from merely wealthy to rich. If you have zero property, and have to pay rent, it is a lot harder to even buy your own house to live in than it is for the land mogul to expand. It takes more hard work and innovation just to get the basics, to not be spending most of one's income on making someone else rich.
But without government issued land title deeds, this situation would never happen.
These are two examples of the government distorting the market. If we really had a free, competitive market, then everything you are saying would make sense, but we don't.
And this is without even getting into inheritance - around half of the top richest people in the country (as well as our president elect) received tens or hundreds of millions - in some cases billions-
of dollars just for being born to the right person. Some took those hundreds of millions and leveraged it into billions, but that is still (mostly) unearned wealth. Its about ten million times easier to become a billionaire when you get handed ten million dollars compared to if you have to earn that first ten million yourself, through hard work and innovation.
The wealth of another person doesn't affect me at all so why does anyone care that I may have less wealth than anyone else?
Of course it does! There isn't a supply of infinity dollars in the world. Money represents (however loosely) actually resources in the real world. And at any given moment, there is a finite amount of them. We can increase the value of it with technology and labor, but it will never be infinite. That means the it is simply a mathematical reality that the more one person has of the pool, the smaller the pool is for everyone else.
So lets say the top 1% were helped in getting rich via market distorting government actions (this is much more true of the 0.1%, but its harder to find good infographics for them).
One thing this chart is telling us, it there would be (on average) twice as much available in the pool for the lower 40% if the 1% weren't hoarding so much of it for themselves.
To tie it back to the initial topic:
Imagine someone owns a factory with 100 workers, each making $20 per hour.
A new robot is invented that can do the work of 10 workers, at a cost of $10,000 each.
The factory owner can make back the cost of ten robots in a little over a week.
Now there are 99 unemployed people (income changed from $20 an hour to $0), one robot technician (income goes from $20 and hour to $100), and a very rich factory owner (profit just increased by $4 million per year).
That factory owner did not just make that 4 million a year by having a better product or working harder, he did it by making a purchase.
Now envision a different type of culture, one that values society as a whole:
Same robot is invented. one is need
Each employee learns robot maintenance, but only is needed at a time. So each one cuts back to one hour every two and half weeks of work - and gets a raise to $2000 an hour.
Now every employee makes the same take home pay in each check, but has a whole lot of free time to spend with family, art, learning, whatever they want. The factory owner is still making whatever profit he was to begin with, but with a much more relaxed and happy workforce.
Explain why the second scenario is worse for everyone?