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Sat Apr 26, 2014, 03:14 AM

Robert Solow: Are we becoming an oligarchy?


(video from the Economic Policy Institute)

In a recent interview at the Economic Policy Institute, Nobel Prize-Winning economist and MIT professor Robert Solow riffed on the political effects of increasing inequality and concentration of wealth at the very top. "If that kind of concentration of wealth continues, then we get to be more and more an oligarchical country, a country that's run from the top," he said.

Piketty writes as if a tax on wealth might sometime soon have political viability in Europe, where there is already some experience with capital levies. I have no opinion about that. On this side of the Atlantic, there would seem to be no serious prospect of such an outcome. We are politically unable to preserve even an estate tax with real bite. If we could, that would be a reasonable place to start, not to mention a more steeply progressive income tax that did not favor income from capital as the current system does. But the built-in tendency for the top to outpace everyone else will not yield to minor patches.


And this is, perhaps, the most significant point. Piketty has identified the mechanism by which inequality accelerates over time (Solow calls it, simply, the “rich-get-richer dynamic". But the consequences of that distribution are not merely economic but political: A concentration of wealth leads to a concentration of power, which in turn protects the concentration of power. That our political system is incapable of tempering Piketty's dynamic is not a bizarre coincidence but a direct result.

"Wouldn’t it be interesting," Solow asks in his TNR review, "if the United States were to become the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the last refuge of increasing inequality at the top (and perhaps also at the bottom)? Would that work for you?"

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/04/nobel-prize-winning-economist-were-heading-for-oligarchy/361200/

5 replies, 1785 views

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Reply Robert Solow: Are we becoming an oligarchy? (Original post)
RainDog Apr 2014 OP
dougolat Apr 2014 #1
mother earth Apr 2014 #2
geretogo Apr 2014 #5
KoKo Apr 2014 #3
yallerdawg Apr 2014 #4

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 03:40 AM

1. We're there, have been since Reagan, at least.

But it CAN change, that's what is great about the U.S.

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Response to dougolat (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 08:26 AM

2. How hopeful can one be that the US can change when even SCOTUS is compromised?

We are kidding ourselves to believe change is going to come without incredible reforms, and that isn't happening any time soon.
ALEC reigns, my friend, the plutocracy has only just begun.

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Response to dougolat (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 02:29 PM

5. exactly right .

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 11:25 AM

3. Recommend read..

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Sat Apr 26, 2014, 11:57 AM

4. From the beginning?

Howard Zinn had argued this country has always functioned as a tool of the elites.

Now we have a political class (like the Bush and Clinton families at present) who serve the economic elites, the "masters of the universe." The Great State is designed to steer like a huge oil tanker - the course is really set, and it moves just a little bit to give us the illusion of democracy.

Until we wake up!

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