September 2017

IZA DP No. 11005: 'Inequality Is the Root of Social Evil,' or Maybe Not? Two Stories about Inequality and Public Policy

published in: Canadian Public Policy, 2016, 42 (4), 367-414

Income inequality is on the rise, and everyone, from President Obama and Pope Francis to Prince Charles and Standard & Poor's, is talking about it. But these conversations about what are arguably the most significant changes in the distribution of incomes and earnings since the 1940s are leading to very different views on how public policy should respond. This is as true in Canada as it is in almost all of the other rich countries where inequality has risen. In this paper I tell two stories about inequality – one from the perspective of those who feel it is not a problem worth the worry, and the other from the perspective of those who see it as "the defining challenge of our time" – in order to clarify the issues facing Canadians, and what public policy should do about them.