Fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie economics

Hello Professor Wolff, I love your work & podcasts (although I am certainly not particularly educated in the area of economics). I often get into discussions with people during my daily life, and let them know that I’ve always felt that the "Master issue" (the issue controlling all of its sub-issues, representation of the populace in gov't, legislation, never-ending war, climate change, healthcare, unemployment, incarceration, immigration, civil rights, mental health issues / depression, etc, etc, etc... the list goes on forever) in this country is wealth/income inequality and distribution… generally letting others know that most of our populace are getting poorer, while only a very small percentage are getting fabulously wealthier. A couple people responded to me with this... "everyone is getting wealthier, but a small percentage are getting a lot wealthier, while most are getting only a little bit wealthier, or maintaining status quo". Well, I've researched that notion, and apparently it is part of the "fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie" debate (whether there is actually debate about this, I do not know). While researching this, I ran across an article, by Chelsea German, which seemed to me VERY UN-convincing, with respect to this supposed "debate", at this link: So, two questions... one, what is your view of "fixed pie vs expanding/variable pie"?, and two, where can I find definitive research/documentation proving, what I’ve always figured MUST be true, that most people are getting poorer (some of the recent research of Gabriel Zucman seems to indicate this, of which I've read only tiny bits, and his work is so voluminous that finding specific data proving would be quite difficult, and time-consuming). I suspect that the answers to my questions are probably more difficult than I was hoping, as it probably involves some type of economic/financial comparison of different time periods, involving various ratios/multipliers/dividers/equations to try to account for inflation and other variables… but I’m hoping not, and that you can provide some definitive data/charts/etc (I also suspect that as one rises on the income/wealth scale, their ability to accept/believe that most people are getting poorer drops off precipitously… and it would not surprise me to find that there have been studies, psych research, etc on this.) Thanks very much for your time, and consideration. Bob

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  • Bob Ellenbogen
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-03-13 16:49:58 -0400