Column: Economic inequality — why the rich are rattled

The Milken Institute Global Conference, an annual gathering of investment bankers plus a smattering of social entrepreneurs, scientists and Hollywood stars, is a sea of expensive suits and beautiful shoes — a convention not of the top 1 percent but of the top 0.1 percent.

Hot topics this year included some you would expect: the outlook for the world economy, ways to make new fortunes in finance and energy, the prospects for disruptive innovation in technology and medicine.

But there was also a lot of talk at the conference about a 656-page book on inequality. Thomas Piketty, a French economist who thinks the increasing concentration of wealth threatens democratic societies, didn’t attend the Milken gathering, but his message — and his conclusion that the solution is to tax the assets of the rich — rattled through the Beverly Hilton’s meeting rooms.

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