New York Times, 18 March 2013
Inequality has been rising in most countries around the world, but it has played out in different ways across countries and regions. The United States, it is increasingly recognized, has the sad distinction of being the most unequal advanced country, though the income gap has also widened to a lesser extent, in Britain, Japan, Canada and Germany. Of course, the situation is even worse in Russia, and some developing countries in Latin America and Africa. But this is a club of which we should not be proud to be a member.
Some big countries — Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina — have become more equal in recent years, and other countries, like Spain, were on that trajectory until the economic crisis of 2007-8.
First, individuals were compelled to take responsibility for their own needs.
Second, Singaporean leaders realized they had to break the pernicious, self-sustaining cycle of inequality that has characterized so much of the West. Government programs were universal but progressive: while everyone contributed, those who were well off contributed more to help those at the bottom, to make sure that everyone could live a decent life, as defined by what Singaporean society, at each stage of its development, could afford.
Third, the government intervened in the distribution of pretax income — to help those at the bottom, rather than, as in the United States, those at the top.
Fourth, Singapore realized that the key to future success was heavy investment in education — and more recently, scientific research — and that national advancement would mean that all citizens — not just the children of the rich — would need access to the best education for which they were qualified.
Smith, Hedrik (2012). Who Stole the American Dream? Random House.
Taibbi, Matt (2011). Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History. Spiegel & Grau.