Wealth Inequality: Building a New Economy for the 100 Percent

This summary on the origins of wealth inequality in the United States clearly answers the foggy question: what can we do about it?


| November 2012


Over the past thirty years, we’ve seen a radical redistribution of wealth sent upward to a tiny fraction of the population — the 1 percent. The primary concern in 99 to 1 (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012) by activist Chuck Collins is to break down how extreme wealth inequality manifested in the United States, the damage it causes to individuals, business and the earth, and what the 99 percent means in the real world. Dissect wealth inequality and our dissolving quality of life in the following excerpt taken from chapter 1, “Coming Apart at the Middle.” 

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

—Plutarch (c. 46–120 CE)

For more than three decades, the United States has undertaken a dangerous social experiment: How much inequality can a democratic self-governing society handle? How far can we stretch the gap between the super-rich 1 percent and everyone else before something snaps?

We have pulled apart. Over a relatively short period of time, since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a massive share of global income and wealth has funneled upward into the bank accounts of the richest 1 percent—and, within that group, the richest one-tenth of 1 percent.

This has been not just a U.S. trend but a global tendency, as the wealthiest 1 percent of the planet’s citizens delinked from the rest of humanity in terms of wealth, opportunity, life expectancy, and quality of life.