Economists and epidemiologists, psychologists and political scientists: Researchers from multiple disciplines have detailed the high price we pay when we tolerate intense maldistributions of income and wealth. If we want a world more welcoming to the best humanity can be, the social science consensus holds, we need to narrow the gaps that divide us.
But how? Here we have no clear consensus. We do have options. Societies can narrow the gaps in income that distance our most and least affluent in three basic ways. We can level up incomes at the bottom of our economic order. We can level down incomes at the top. Or we can do both.
Those who sit atop our economic order — and those who seek their favor — typically do their best to confine us to the first of these options. To narrow our economic divides, friends of grand fortune advise, we need to work at lifting up the bottom. Fighting inequality, they maintain, need only involve attacking poverty, nothing more.