Americans are increasingly worried about the rising tide of economic inequality, as fewer control more wealth. For the origins of these concerns, commentators usually point to the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, when a few men gained immense wealth and power in the U.S. and workers suffered extreme poverty.
But fears of great wealth and the need for economic equality go back to the country’s origins. Wealth as a danger to the nation
By the 1700s, Anglo-Americans generally believed that the best government was a republic that would ensure the public good by avoiding concentrated wealth. The British political tradition limited voting to men who owned property; about 20% in England, but 50% to 80% in their American colonies .
In 1773, as the colonies drew closer to revolt, New Haven minister Benjamin Trumbull urged elected officials to keep property “ equally divided ,” to not allow “a few persons to amass all the riches and wealth of a country.” Four months after the Declaration of Independence, the Pennsylvania Packet newspaper reported a proposal for the state’s legislature to tax wealth, “lessening property when it becomes excessive in individuals.”
During the war for independence, there were widespread state […]
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