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How to Create a Society of Equals

Overcoming Today’s Crisis of Inequality

The low-income neighborhood known as Boca la Caja next to the business district in Panama City, September 2013. Carlos Jasso / Reuters

There has been much discussion of rising economic inequality in the developed world recently, along with a generalized sense that the problem has grown to intolerable proportions. But at the same time, there has been little movement to address the situation; instead, there is tacit acceptance of many specific forms of inequality and the processes that produce it. The result is widespread discontent together with practical passivity.

One might call this a Bossuet paradox, after the seventeenth-century theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, who said, “God laughs at men who complain of the consequences while cherishing the causes.” Today, people deplore inequality in general, appalled by broad social statistics or extreme examples of wealth and poverty, but often consent to it in particular, regarding smaller variations in life outcomes as the result of presumptively legitimate individual choices and circumstances. A recent survey conducted in France on the “perception of inequality and feelings

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