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Republic of unequals

The inequality baked into contemporary US capitalism is warping America’s society and politics, explains Nobel laureate Angus Deaton. Joe Biden’s administration is bursting with inequality experts, but what chance do they really stand of fixing the problem?

By Angus Deaton  

JD Rockerfeller—a "robber baron" of the last gilded age; but is 21st America into a new one? Photo: Creative Commons

In 2013, President Obama called inequality “the defining issue of our time,” and noted that “a few dozen individuals controlled as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.” The speech was notable because inequality per se had not previously been a particularly salient issue for most Americans, at least since the Gilded Age with its robber barons and gigantic industrial trusts. Until relatively recently, inequality was less discussed in the US than in other countries. The standard measures of income and wealth inequality—the Gini index, the Theil index, the Atkinson index, the Palma index—all bear the names of…

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