Inequality and Occupy Wall Street 4: daddy put you in the top 1% !


It was almost a sad sight to see Rupert Murdoch’s son sitting beside the famed newspaper publisher in the televised committee hearings conducted by the British parliament last July.

James seems so out of depth.

Superstar salary he certainly has, but superstar talent?

If the members of the top 1% are there because of connections or political power—rather than by the force of their talent, energy, and motivation—then we should be rightly critical about claims that they merit their fortunes, and question the contribution they make to economic productivity.

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Inequality and Occupy Wall Street 3: the top 1% are superstars

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.

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