Chapter 14: Income distribution and inequality
The produce of the earth – all that is derived from its surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital, is divided among three classes of the community; namely, the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the labourers by whose industry it is cultivated. . . . To determine the laws which regulate this distribution, is the principal problem in Political Economy. (David Ricardo, On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. London: John Murray, 1817 (3rd edn 1821)). The central place that Ricardo accorded the subject of income distribution in nineteenth century political economy is appropriate also in twenty-first-century socio-economics. Although the field was relatively neglected by economists for several decades, in the last 15 years there has been a resurgence of interest driven partly by developments in economic theory and partly by major developments in the interpersonal income distributions within many developed countries (Atkinson, 1997).
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