Daniel Markovits of Yale Law has a new book coming out. It may be interesting. The following is a snippet, pre-release:
The main obstacle to overcoming meritocratic inequality is not technical but political. Today’s conditions induce discontent and widespread pessimism, verging on despair. In his book Oligarchy, the political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters surveys eras in human history from the classical period to the 20th century, and documents what becomes of societies that concentrate income and wealth in a narrow elite. In almost every instance, the dismantling of such inequality has been accompanied by societal collapse, such as military defeat (as in the Roman empire) or revolution (as in France and Russia).
Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope. History does present one clear-cut case of an orderly recovery from concentrated inequality: In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. answered the Great Depression by adopting the New Deal framework that would eventually build the mid-century middle class. Crucially, government redistribution was not the primary engine of this process. The broadly shared prosperity that this regime established came, mostly, from an economy and a labor market that promoted economic equality over hierarchy—by dramatically expanding access to education, as under the GI Bill, and then placing mid-skilled, middle-class workers at the center of production.
An updated version of these arrangements remains available today; a renewed expansion of education and a renewed emphasis on middle-class jobs can reinforce each other. The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.
Rebuilding a democratic economic order will be difficult. But the benefits that economic democracy brings—to everyone—justify the effort. And the violent collapse that will likely follow from doing nothing leaves us with no good alternative but to try.
Even “liberals” are sensing the problem. He’s on to something, a little late, about the conditions and the rigging. He’s off about the solution, I think. But, he grasps that violence is coming. That, I think is now unavoidable – partly because of the changes that Markovits hints around but doesn’t address (this ain’t the country it was in 1962). I do like his optimism though. Maybe consider the read in September.