Princeton economist Angus Deaton, who was named a Nobel Prize winner today, is best known in his field for his work showing that consumption choices and other individual factors — as opposed to those of larger groups as a whole — may provide better insight into the workings of the economy.
But as Vox points out here, Deaton also authored this book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, in which he makes a compelling case as to “why income inequality in society as a whole is a threat to democracy — and why worrying about it isn’t just class warfare or resentment.”
The political equality that is required by democracy is always under threat from economic inequality, and the more extreme the economic inequality, the greater the threat to democracy. If democracy is compromised, there is a direct loss of wellbeing because people have good reason to value their ability to participate in political life, and the loss of that ability is instrumental in threatening other harm.
The very wealthy have little need for state-provided education or health care… They have even less reason to support health insurance for everyone, or to worry about the low quality of public schools that plagues much of the country. They will oppose any regulation of banks that restricts profits, even if it helps those who cannot cover their mortgages or protects the public against predatory lending, deceptive advertising, or even a repetition of the financial crash. To worry about these consequences of extreme inequality has nothing to do with being envious of the rich and everything to do with the fear that rapidly growing top incomes are a threat to the well being of everyone else.
Read more on Professor Deaton here.