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When he's not busy protecting Russell Wilson on the field, Seahawks lineman Russell Okung runs a non-profit called Greater. Photo via Okung.
Seahawks lineman Russell Okung runs a non-profit called Greater. Photo via Russell Okung.

Seattle Seahawks lineman Russell Okung has received a lot feedback since penning a heartfelt response on GeekWire to Paul Graham’s recent essay on economic inequality. And now Graham himself has responded to Okung — saying that they actually agree, for the most part.

Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. (Photo by JD Lasica, via Flickr)
Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. (Photo by JD Lasica, via Flickr)

In the original essay, Graham wrote that economic inequality is a symptom of other things — some of them negative, like poverty, and others positive, like startup creation.

“Eliminating great variations in wealth would mean eliminating startups,” Graham wrote. “And that doesn’t seem a wise move.”

Okung (who dislocated his shoulder in the Seahawks’ playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday) wrote in his response to Graham last week that he was “baffled” that Graham would consider economic inequality a good thing.

“Some think working hard solves the problems of poverty and institutional oppression and the lack of social mobility,” wrote Okung, co-founder of a Seattle non-profit called GREATER and an investor in eSports startup Matcherino. “Some think that by sheer determination, one can overcome such issues. But economic inequality isn’t the symptom; it’s the virus that attacks.”

“What happened to your first love?” Okung asked Graham. “What happened to building up those people? I believe wealth has the potential to breed elitism. And I believe because of Graham’s success, he may have lost his way.”

But in a follow-up post this weekend, Graham said Okung mischaracterized his take on the issue.

“He says I say economic inequality is ‘a good thing.’ I didn’t say that. What I said is that it has multiple causes, some bad (lack of social mobility) and some good (Larry and Sergey starting Google),” Graham wrote, adding later, “If you attack economic inequality, you’re indiscriminately attacking both the good and bad causes. So instead attack specific bad causes.”

He added, “If (Okung) thinks what ‘economic inequality’ means is poverty and lack of social mobility, it’s not surprising he was upset enough to write a reply to my essay. In fact I suspect much if not most of the angry reaction to it was a result of people not understanding what the term ‘economic inequality’ means.”

Graham also told tech news site Recode, which wrote about Okung’s post here, that “I don’t think we actually disagree about much,” adding that “he just doesn’t seem to have read what I wrote very carefully.”

Okung’s post also sparked a big reaction from GeekWire readers and people across the tech industry.

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