Are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?

29 Sep 2011

AUSTRALIANS like to think of themselves as egalitarian, and for much of our history we believed our income and wealth was spread around relatively evenly. For many years the world shared that view: as early as the 1880s, visitors remarked on our relatively equal distribution of wealth, the lack of visible poverty, our generally comfortable incomes, and our relatively few millionaires. As late as 1967, prime minister Harold Holt could say that he knew of no other free country where “what is produced by the community is more fairly and evenly distributed among the community” than it was in Australia. From the 1980s onwards, however, this view of Australia came under scrutiny. As the historian John Hirst wrote: “‘Egalitarianism – see under myths’: so runs the index entry in a standard sociological text on Australian society…”

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