The curse of political inequality

“Prosperity depends on innovation, and we waste our innovative potential if we do not provide a level playing field for all: we don’t know where the next Microsoft, Google, or Facebook will come from, and if the person who will make this happen goes to a failing school and cannot get into a good university, the chances that it will become a reality are much diminished. There is a lot to worry about here. Our schools are failing and American youth is less likely to graduate from high school or college today than in the 60s. We are no longer the country of opportunity and upward mobility that we once were — largely because that upward mobility crucially depended on the expansion of mass schooling.

The real danger to our prosperity lies in political inequality. The U.S. generated so much innovation and economic growth for the last 200 years because, by and large, it rewarded innovation and investment. This did not happen in a vacuum; it was supported by a particular set of political arrangements — inclusive political institutions — which prevented an elite or another narrow group from monopolizing political power and using it for their own benefit and at the expense of society. When politics gets thus hijacked, inequality of opportunity follows, for the hijackers will use their power to gain special treatment for their businesses and tilt the playing field in their favor and against their competitors. The best, and in fact the only, bulwark against this is political equality to ensure that those whose rights and interests will be trampled on have a say and can prevent it.”

That’s Daron Acemoglu in the Huffington Post. He’s also blogging at Why Nations Fail. Another thought: the process that allows for the production of the next Steve Jobs or Larry Page also allows for the production of great political leaders.

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