My previous three columns on income inequality have touched on its causes, the role that government and markets play in evening out consumption, and finally the extreme limits public policy plays in equalizing incomes. Now I will focus more on the middle class.
For most of recorded history there was no real middle class. Cities, technological growth and political freedom brought to the world a merchant class, but it was not until the industrial revolution was in full form that a large number of households entered what we think of as the middle class today.
In America, and especially the Midwest, this middle class was built upon an unsustainable combination of low-productivity, high-wage jobs in large factories. That version of the middle class was never sustainable and has been unraveling for a half-century.