James Joyner riffs off of a post by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic:
If the most extreme manifestation of inequality is this variable, it’s not obvious why we need to eliminate it. If we had a top 0.001 percent that was essentially an aristocracy, it would certainly be a problem. But if it’s fluid, with most people and families falling out of the class and being replaced by others, it’s not obviously problematic, so long as it’s truly earned. I don’t begrudge Bill Gates his billions; Paris Hilton, on the other hand, is a different story.
See especially the graph of the change in the concentration of wealth reproduced from the original post.
I see the problem slightly differently as I explained in the comment I left on that post:
I think it depends entirely on what you consider normal or desireable. When I was in college, the top 1% wealthiest accounted for about 25% of the wealth. Now they account for about 50%.
The second question, neither answered nor even asked, is whether policies have been jiggered to account for the change. I think they have. I think that only some of the .01% have been able to create their enormous wealth with any skill other than the ability to manipulate and exploit the system.
The policies in question cover a broad range: trade, immigration, economic, labor, financial, intellectual property, the list is practically endless. Walmart wasn’t just created with retail acumen. it depends on trade and zoning policies, just to name two.
The most recent example of what I’m talking about occurred during the financial crisis. We didn’t have to save the bankers along with the banks but we did. That’s ” this group, comprised mostly of bankers and CEOs”. Those aren’t the Michael Jordans. They’re the beneficiaries of government policy.
The political responses to that have been essentially two. Some have maintained that since the top .01% are so skilled and hardworking and are responsible for creating lots of jobs they’re entitled to retain their wealth. Others have argued that the richest should be taxed and the proceeds given to the next wealthiest 1%-.99%. They don’t articulate it that way but that’s the net effect of their argument.
My own view is different. I think we need to change the policies that are responsible for the concentration of wealth.