Resolved: The intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy


Concentrated wealth makes it possible to buy off the government
Concentrated wealth makes it too difficult to move between socioeconomic classes
Widening inequality causes poverty


Passing on wealth is an incentive to accumulate it
Wealth accumulation critical to business development and innovation
Families support the development of businesses are entitled to it


Intergenerational wealth transmission and the dynamic of inequality in small socities (2009). Small-scale human societies range from foraging bands with a strong egalitarian ethos to more economically stratified agrarian and pastoral societies. We explain this variation in inequality using a dynamic model in which a population’s long-run steady-state level of inequality depends on the extent to which its most important forms of wealth are transmitted within families across generations. We estimate the degree of intergenerational transmission of three different types of wealth (material, embodied, and relational), as well as the extent of wealth inequality in 21 historical and contemporary populations. We show that intergenerational transmission of wealth and wealth inequality are substantial among pastoral and small-scale agricultural societies (on a par with or even exceeding the most unequal modern industrial economies) but are limited among horticultural and foraging peoples (equivalent to the most egalitarian of modern industrial populations). Differences in the technology by which a people derive their livelihood and in the institutions and norms making up the economic system jointly contribute to this pattern.

How does intergenerational wealth transfer affect wealth concentration? (2018)

Rising Inequality: Causes, Problems, Potential Solutions (2019)

Reversing inequality: Unleashing the potential of a transformative economy (2019)

Philanthropy and Intergenerational Justice (Book) 2016. Although intergenerational family transfers of private wealth should be limited on grounds of intergenerational justice, these same grounds can provide states with reasons to support intergenerational charitable transfers of private wealth. This is because, given their distinctive governance structure and ability to exist over long time horizons, philanthropic institutions, unlike the nuclear family, can and should play three distinctive roles in helping a society fulfil its intergenerational obligations. First, they can be harnessed to counteract the short-termism and presentism of the democratic process, in a way that promotes the long-term interests of future generations. Second, they can supplement political institutions in fulfilling the ultimate purpose of the just savings principle, in circumstances where a regression from the steady-stage state to the accumulation stage is possible but highly unlikely. Third, they can complement political institutions in securing the reproduction of a particular form of capital—social capital—over time.


General Inequality

Escaping poverty requires almost 20 years with nothing going wrong (2017). The MIT economist Peter Temin argues that economic inequality results in two distinct classes. And only one of them has any power.

Don’t the rich deserve to keep their money? (2016)

The costs of inequality.  Increasingly, it’s the rich and the rest (2016)

Rich Rewards (2013).  The opportunity gap among American children has widened dramatically in the past 30 years

The higher the inequality the more likely we are to move away from democracy (2013)


Why we need to reinvent democracy for the long-term (2019)

Will we protect ourselves from oligarchy? (2018)

Is social mobility essential to democracy? (2016)

Taking Turns: Democracy to Come and Intergenerational Justice (2011). In the face of the ever-growing effect the actions of the present may have upon future people, most conspicuously around climate change, democracy has been accused, with good justification, of a presentist bias: of systemically favouring the presently living. By contrast, this paper will argue that the intimate relation, both quasi-ontological and normative, that Derrida’s work establishes between temporality and justice insists upon another, more future-regarding aspect of democracy. We can get at this aspect by arguing for two consequences of the deconstructive affirmation of sur-vivre, of the alterity of death in life. Firstly, justice is not first of all justice for the living, but intergenerational from the start. This is so because no generation coincides with itself; rather, it dies and is reborn at every moment, and so – and this is the second consequence – consists in taking turns. Affirming life as living-on means affirming that it involves exchanging life’s stations, as the young become the old, and the unborn become the dead. In this sense, the justice of living-on, I will argue, shares an essential feature with democracy, whose principle of exchanging the rulers with the ruled led Derrida to characterize it in terms of the wheel. Democracy consists in the principled assent to power changing hands, a switchover life demands of every generation at every turn. This assent further requires an acceptance of the gift of inheritance without which no life can survive. But as the gift can also never be fully acknowledged or appropriated, it must be passed on to the indefinite, unknown future, in a turning that is the time of life.


The racial wealth gap 

Why a white household has 16X the wealth of a black one (2016)

Answers to: People Work Hard

More wealth isn’t the result of the pursuit of hard work (2016)

The rise of the non-working rich (2014)

General Negative

Five myths about economic inequality in America (2016)

Redistribution does not reduce inequality (2018)


A wealth tax could save trillions and our democracy (2019)

How to tax the rich (2019)

Tax the hell out of the rich (2019)