IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v27y2013i3p21-34.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Defending the One Percent

Author

Listed:
  • N. Gregory Mankiw

Abstract

Imagine a society with perfect economic equality. Then, one day, this egalitarian utopia is disturbed by an entrepreneur with an idea for a new product. Think of the entrepreneur as Steve Jobs as he develops the iPod, J. K. Rowling as she writes her Harry Potter books, or Steven Spielberg as he directs his blockbuster movies. The new product makes the entrepreneur much richer than everyone else. How should the entrepreneurial disturbance in this formerly egalitarian outcome alter public policy? Should public policy remain the same, because the situation was initially acceptable and the entrepreneur improved it for everyone? Or should government policymakers deplore the resulting inequality and use their powers to tax and transfer to spread the gains more equally? In my view, this thought experiment captures, in an extreme and stylized way, what has happened to US society over the past several decades. Since the 1970s, average incomes have grown, but the growth has not been uniform across the income distribution. The incomes at the top, especially in the top 1 percent, have grown much faster than average. These high earners have made significant economic contributions, but they have also reaped large gains. The question for public policy is what, if anything, to do about it.

Suggested Citation

  • N. Gregory Mankiw, 2013. "Defending the One Percent," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 21-34, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:3:p:21-34
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.3.21
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.27.3.21
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Cronqvist, Henrik & Fahlenbrach, Rüdiger, 2013. "CEO contract design: How do strong principals do it?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(3), pages 659-674.
    2. Daniel J. Benjamin & David Cesarini & Christopher F. Chabris & Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & Vilmundur Guðnason & Tamara B. Harris & Lenore J. Launer & Shaun Purcell & Albert Vernon Smith & M, 2012. "The Promises and Pitfalls of Genoeconomics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 627-662, July.
      • Grankvist, Alexander & Benjamin, Daniel J. & Harris, Tamara B. & Launer, Lenore J. & Smith, Albert Vernon & Johannesson, Magnus & Atwood, Craig S. & Hebert, Benjamin Michael & Hultman, Christina M. & , 2012. "The Promises and Pitfalls of Genoeconomics," Scholarly Articles 10137000, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Andrea Ichino & Loukas Karabarbounis, 2011. "Gender-Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 1-40, May.
    4. Steven N. Kaplan, 2012. "Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance in the U.S.: Perceptions, Facts and Challenges," NBER Working Papers 18395, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:hrv:faseco:30752834 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Lester C. Thurow, 1971. "The Income Distribution as a Pure Public Good," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 327-336.
    7. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    8. Congressional Budget Office, 2012. "The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009," Reports 43373, Congressional Budget Office.
    9. Patricia Kanngiesser & Felix Warneken, 2012. "Young Children Consider Merit when Sharing Resources with Others," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 7(8), pages 1-5, August.
    10. N. Gregory Mankiw & Matthew Weinzierl, 2010. "The Optimal Taxation of Height: A Case Study of Utilitarian Income Redistribution," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 155-176, February.
    11. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-41.
    12. Congressional Budget Office, 2012. "The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009," Reports 43373, Congressional Budget Office.
    13. Congressional Budget Office, 2012. "The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009," Reports 43373, Congressional Budget Office.
    14. Congressional Budget Office, 2012. "The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2008 and 2009," Reports 43373, Congressional Budget Office.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Josh Bivens & Lawrence Mishel, 2013. "The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as Evidence of Rents in Top 1 Percent Incomes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 57-78, Summer.
    2. Jonathan Fisher & David S. Johnson & Timothy M. Smeeding, 2015. "Inequality of Income and Consumption in the U.S.: Measuring the Trends in Inequality from 1984 to 2011 for the Same Individuals," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 61(4), pages 630-650, December.
    3. Andrew Kliman, 2015. "The Great Recession and Marx's Crisis Theory," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 74(2), pages 236-277, March.
    4. Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2020. "The Rise of Income and Wealth Inequality in America: Evidence from Distributional Macroeconomic Accounts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 3-26, Fall.
    5. Philip Armour & Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore, 2014. "Levels and Trends in U.S. Income and its Distribution: A Crosswalk from Market Income towards a Comprehensive Haig‐Simons Income Approach," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 81(2), pages 271-293, October.
    6. Nezih Guner & Remzi Kaygusuz & Gustavo Ventura, 2014. "Income Taxation of U.S. Households: Facts and Parametric Estimates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 559-581, October.
    7. Jeff Larrimore, 2014. "Accounting for United States Household Income Inequality Trends: The Changing Importance of Household Structure and Male and Female Labor Earnings Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(4), pages 683-701, December.
    8. James Elwell & Kevin Corinth & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2019. "Income Growth and its Distribution from Eisenhower to Obama: The Growing Importance of In-Kind Transfers (1959-2016)," NBER Working Papers 26439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Hager, Sandy Brian, 2013. "America's Real 'Debt Dilemma'," Review of Capital as Power, Capital As Power - Toward a New Cosmology of Capitalism, vol. 1(1), pages 41-62.
    10. John Komlos, 2016. "Growth of Income and Welfare in the U.S. 1979-2011," CESifo Working Paper Series 5880, CESifo.
    11. Nezih Guner & Remzi Kaygusuz & Gustavo Ventura, 2014. "Income Taxation of U.S. Households: Facts and Parametric Estimates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 559-581, October.
    12. Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore & Sean Lyons, 2017. "Measuring Health Insurance Benefits: The Case Of People With Disabilities," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(3), pages 439-456, July.
    13. Hager, Sandy Brian, 2014. "What Happened to the Bondholding Class? Public Debt, Power and the Top One Per Cent (Preprint)," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 155-182.
    14. Bruce D. Meyer & Derek Wu & Victoria R. Mooers & Carla Medalia, 2019. "The use and misuse of income data and extreme poverty in the United States," AEI Economics Working Papers 1018925, American Enterprise Institute.
    15. Sara Torregrosa Hetland, 2015. "Did democracy bring redistribution? Insights from the Spanish tax system, 1960–90," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(3), pages 294-315.
    16. Hager, Sandy Brian, 2013. "Public Debt, Ownership and Power: The Political Economy of Distribution and Redistribution," EconStor Theses, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 157991.
    17. Philip Armour & Richard V. Burkhauser & Jeff Larrimore, 2013. "Levels and Trends in United States Income and Its Distribution A Crosswalk from Market Income Towards a Comprehensive Haig-Simons Income Approach," NBER Working Papers 19110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Sanders Korenman & Dahlia K. Remler & Rosemary T. Hyson, 2019. "Accounting for the Impact of Medicaid on Child Poverty," NBER Working Papers 25973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Barry Z. Cynamon & Steven M. Fazzari, 2016. "Inequality, the Great Recession and slow recovery," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(2), pages 373-399.
    20. Seán Kennedy & Yosuke Jin & David Haugh & Patrick Lenain, 2016. "Taxes, Income and Economic Mobility in Ireland: New Evidence from Tax Records Data," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 47(1), pages 109-153.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:27:y:2013:i:3:p:21-34. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.