"The history of the progressive tax over the course of the twentieth century suggests that the risk of a drift toward oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed. It was war that gave rise to progressive taxation, not the natural consequences of universal suffrage. The experience of France in the Belle Époque proves, if proof were needed, that no hypocrisy is too great when economic and financial elites are obliged to defend their interests—and that includes economists, who currently occupy an enviable place in the US income hierarchy. Some economists have an unfortunate tendency to defend their private interest while implausibly claiming to champion the general interest. Although data on this are sparse, it also seems that US politicians of both parties are much wealthier than their European counterparts and in a totally different category from the average American, which might explain why they tend to confuse their own private interest with the general interest. Without a radical shock, it seems fairly likely that the current equilibrium will persist for quite some time. The egalitarian pioneer ideal has faded into oblivion, and the New World may be on the verge of becoming the Old Europe of the twenty-first century’s globalized-economy."
An excerpt from Thomas Piketty’s Capital