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Widespread recognition that economic inequality has been growing
for forty years in most of the developed world, and in fact has tended
to grow across most of the history of modern economies, shows that
the period 1945-1973, when inequality of wealth and income shrank,
was a marked anomaly in historical experience. At the time, however,
the anomalous period of equality seemed to vindicate a long history of
optimism about economic life: that growth would overcome meaningful
scarcity and usher in an egalitarian and humanistic period that could
almost qualify as post-economic. This has not been the experience
of the last four decades. In this intellectual history of the anomalous
period, we trace the main lines of that optimism and its undoing.

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