Income inequality: Those crazy class-conscious leftists

DAVID BROOKS warns us that the current anxiety about income inequality is self-defeating. “Some on the left have always tried to introduce a more class-conscious style of politics. These efforts never pan out,” he writes. “America has always done better, liberals have always done better, when we are all focused on opportunity and mobility, not inequality, on individual and family aspiration, not class-consciousness.” Mr Brooks is quite right that this sort of thing has a long history. I was immediately reminded of a passage of precisely such class-conscious rabble-rousing that I happened to re-read just the other day:[T]he most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views.The author of this radical, class-conscious vision of society was James Madison, America’s fourth* president and co-author of its constitution. Madison did not believe that it should be easy for the poor majority to …

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