Courtesy Reuters

From the corridors of power in Washington to protest encampments on Wall Street, economic inequality is once again at the forefront of American public debate. The combination of rising fortunes at the upper end of the income distribution and stagnation lower down has led to calls from the left for actions to redress the imbalance and punish what Theodore Roosevelt called "malefactors of great wealth." If the immediate circumstances are new, however, battles over the significance and implications of inequality are not, and in this context we feel it useful to resurrect a skeptical perspective on the subject from a

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