This video of a panel discussion called “The Challenges of Growing Inequality” organized by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University features a discussion by Lawerence Katz, a prominent labour economist. Katz speaks on the causes of inequality and offers advice to Occupiers on what should be done about it.
To explain the fact that the top 1% now take home a larger share of total earnings than they ever have since the 1940s Occupiers need to understand the economics of superstars.
Talent is unique. Or as the late University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen stated, “hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.” When he was at his best there was only one Wayne Gretzky, and I guess that is why they nicknamed him “the Great One.” To those of us listening to the opera, or watching the hockey game, the superstar is one-of-a-kind. And because there are no substitutes they get paid much more than even the second best.
This only explains that there is a top 1%, and that as the most talented they get paid a good deal more than the rest of us. It does not explain what has changed, why have they been taking away a bigger and bigger slice of the pie since about 1980.