Inequality: American Exceptionalism or Global Trend?
Has the precipitous rise in inequality in the United States since the 1970s been a primarily American phenomenon, or is it simply the most extreme example of a larger international trend? The authors in this syllabus have emphasized the uniqueness of American inequality - in part to draw attention to the importance of national policy, in part as a rhetorical appeal that inequality is not a necessary fact of modern life, and in part to argue against explanations that attribute rising inequality to skills-based technological change (SBTC) or “globalization.” According to Hacker and Pierson, the rise of inequality “has been substantially more meteoric in the United States than in other rich nations... The hyperconcentration of income in the United States... sets the United States apart from other rich nations, calling into serious doubt the usual explanation for America’s winner-take-all economy, SBTC.”1Therefore, American politics is to blame for rising inequality, not transnational economic or political trends. Increases in inequality in other nations, especially the Anglo-Saxon countries, they attribute to economic competition with, and interconnection to the U.S. Also, “these [English-speaking] nations have also generally emulated U.S. public policymore than other nations have.” But what is distinctly American about the policies that they refer to?
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