Congratulations to Statistics Canada for providing an update on top incomes in Canada, and for launching two new CANSIM tables allowing researchers to dig into the details.
While the income share of the top 1 per cent has slipped slightly since the Great Recession – likely due in large part to the reduced value of exercised stock options – their share of all income (10.6 per cent in 2010) still stands well above the low of about 7 per cent that was reached in the early 1980s.
While growing social inequality is the product of a multi-pronged economic, political and cultural offensive by corporate power across the neoliberal era, the systematic weakening of trade unions looms especially large in the story. After all, unions have served as the most basic organizations for protecting and improving the wages and benefits of working people (including the unorganized). It is hard to see, therefore, how we will reverse the growing inequality gap without a considerable revitalization of the union movement.
Nobel Prize winning economist and political theorist Amartya Sen points out that “every normative theory of social arrangements that has at all stood the test of time seems to demand equality of something – something that is regarded as particularly important in that theory.” Even extreme neo liberals such as Robert Nozick who reject the goal of distributive justice and favour a maximum role for free markets and a minimum role for democratic governments demand equality of individual rights to freely participate in an economy based upon predominantly private ownership of property and free markets. Capitalism is all about equal access to individual freedom to deploy labour and capital as individuals see fit, as opposed to pre liberal economic systems based upon slavery and serfdom.