Inequality is a burning topic among economists, especially since the release of Thomas Piketty’s recent book on the subject. Many are questioning whether this is a temporary period of runaway inequality, or whether we are on the verge of an irreversible collapse into extremes of wealth and poverty. (What would we call it? The Oligopolypse? Plutogeddon?)
But numbers alone don’t tell the full story. Culture, too, is adapting to this unequal world. We idealize the wealthy today in ways that would have been unthinkable decades ago.
With the children of today’s baby boomers scheduled to inherit $30 trillion in the next several decades, politicians and the press are hard at work flattering plutocrats of all ages by portraying them as paragons of wisdom.
If there’s one thing these anecdotes tell us, it’s that the phrase “Money talks” has never meant more than it does today. Nowadays you don’t just buy things with it. It makes you smarter in other people’s eyes. In this increasingly unequal age, it renders the tongue-tied articulate and the shallow profound.