Falling Inequality Defies Piketty's Dark Vision

An old idea suggests that worldwide wealth differences will keep falling.

An optimist for our time.

Source: AFP/Getty Images

If my great-great-grandparents hadn’t changed the family name at Ellis Island back in 1901, I would be a Kuznets instead of a Smith. Either way, I suppose I was destined to bear the name of an economic optimist. Adam Smith, of course, everyone knows about -- he advanced the thesis that commerce and free trade lead to a wealthier society. But far fewer people have heard of Simon Kuznets. A Belarusian immigrant economist who eventually won a Nobel, Kuznets helped create the notion of gross domestic product, which measures a society’s overall wealth. But Kuznets was concerned with more than just GDP -- he recognized that inequality was a bad thing for society, and that the only good economy was one where a rising tide lifted all boats. 

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