Inequality may well be the issue of our time. But is it inequality of income we care about, or inequality of opportunity? And what is opportunity — the opportunity to do better than our parents, or better than ourselves at an earlier age, or does it mean doing better relative to everyone else? Can some of us get wealthier without making others poorer? Would inequality recede if we just had more economic growth?
These questions animate two new books. One is “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem and What To do About It,” by Richard Reeves, a British-born philosopher by training, politician by instinct and a Brookings Institution social scientist by trade. (Richard is also a friend). The other, “The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live and Die,” is by Keith Payne, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. Both books are authoritative, thought provoking, accessible and well worth a spot on your summer reading list.