THE RISE OF the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 drew attention to vast inequities in the allocation of wealth and income in the United States. Activists and scholars pointed out that the 1% at the top was drawing ever farther away from the other 99%. An elite class of top executives, financiers, and wealthy heirs seemed to exercise disproportionate influence over America’s economy and politics. Presidential hopefuls sought audiences with a handful of billionaires who had the ability to single-handedly finance electoral campaigns. How did we get to a point where fossil fuel magnates like the Koch Brothers, or a casino owner like Sheldon Adelson, are able to demand obedience to their peculiar preferences?

Many attribute ...

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