Why income inequality puts democracy – and the global climate – at risk

OPEN LECTURE: FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 6 IN LÖGBERG 101 FROM 12:00 TO 13:00

Why income inequality puts democracy – and the global climate – at risk

This talk is a riff on Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis’ dictum, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both”. It reports recent evidence on the political costs of inequality: (1) the extent of “representational bias” in favour of the wealthy (in US politics); (2) the determinants of the policy preferences of the wealthy; and (3) the mechanisms through which the wealthy’s preferences are translated into policy. It suggests that the representational bias helps to explain political polarization and paralysis; which in turn helps to explain the inability to formulate goals and action on a whole range of societal challenges, including the biggest of all, climate change.

Robert Wade is a professor of political economy and development at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Hulda Þórisdóttir, assistant professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland, will moderate the event.