There’s been a lot of discussion about the historically high levels of income and wealth inequality lately—mostly from people on the shorter end of that stick—with good reason: There’s no end in sight.
In his new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” economist
Thomas Piketty argues that worsening inequality is inevitable in a
mature capitalist system, based on his analysis of 200 years of data.
But inequality isn’t just an evolving condition like a crippling allergy
that comes and goes, or just grows, enumerated by horrifying
statistics. Nor is it just the result of a capitalist-utopian idea of
free markets in which everyone gets a fair shot armed with equal
information (which simply don’t exist in the real world, where markets
are routinely gamed by the biggest players). Inequality is endemic to
the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than
a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a
substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in
the hands of a few families.
In my upcoming book,
“All the Presidents’ Bankers,” I trace the lineage of the banking and
political families and their associates who have had the most combined
influence on American policy. Inequality of income or wealth is a
byproduct of the predisposition and genealogy of this coterie of
America’s power elite. True, being born into wealth means having a
greater chance of accumulating more of it—but take it a step further.
Expanding on the adage of “it takes money to make money,” we get a much
better idea of why inequality is so rampant: Because aside from income
and wealth issues, it takes power to keep power.