Last week, the New York Times published Princeton Professor Melissa Lane’s op-ed An Ancient Civics Lesson. Hearkening back to the Roman Republic and Athenian democracy, Lane, who will be my guest at 6:30 Pacific/9:30am east coast Monday March 30, contends that the best governments check the political, but not economic, power of elites. Here is my response:
In “An Ancient Civics Lesson” [op-ed March 19], Princeton Professor Melissa Lane argues that successful efforts to mediate class warfare require the rich to share political but not economic power. Reducing wealth disparities and growing a dominant middle-class cannot succeed, Lane writes, without the imposition of “drastic” taxes on the rich correlated with reduced support for the poor. Cutting anti-poverty programs would be necessary to keep “the balance [of power] squarely away from each extreme.” Lane contends.
But compared to today’s economically variegated America, a middle-class nation would consist of a smaller and relatively less affluent upper class and fewer and relatively more affluent poor people – in other words no extremes. The road to this promised land is indeed paved with a radical hike in top marginal tax rates matched by increases in government support for the least among us.