...David A. Moss, an economic and policy historian at the Harvard Business School, has spent years studying income inequality. While he has long believed that the growing disparity between the rich and poor was harmful to the people on the bottom, he says he hadn’t seen the risks to the world of finance, where many of the richest earn their great fortunes.
Now, as he studies the financial crisis of 2008, Mr. Moss says that even Wall Street may have something serious to fear from inequality — namely, another crisis.
The possible connection between economic inequality and financial crises came to Mr. Moss about a year ago, when he was at his research center in Cambridge, Mass. A colleague suggested that he overlay two different graphs — one plotting financial regulation and bank failures, and the other charting trends in income inequality.
Mr. Moss says he was surprised by what he saw. The timelines danced in sync with each other. Income disparities between rich and poor widened as government regulations eased and bank failures rose.
“I could hardly believe how tight the fit was — it was a stunning correlation,” he said. “And it began to raise the question of whether there are causal links between financial deregulation, economic inequality and instability in the financial sector. Are all of these things connected?”
One hope Dr. Moss has tenure, because debate of such issues is frowned upon at Ivy League schools.
...his inquiry is one that some conservative economists are already dismissing.
R. Glenn Hubbard, for instance, who was the top economic advisor to former President George W. Bush, said income inequality was not the culprit in the most recent crisis.
“Cars go faster every year, and G.D.P. rises every year, but that doesn’t mean speed causes G.D.P.,” said Mr. Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School and co-author of the coming book “Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity.”
No, but to make the analogy correct, the faster you drive, the greater the likelihood of an accident, and the greater the likelihood of serious damage if you do have an accident.