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Does inequality really matter?

- Imraan Valodia

[The Star] Wealth disparities undermine the social and economic fabric of our society.

Don't fool yourself – inequality really does matter and we had better start doing something about it. 

Two recent events in the international arena have highlighted the urgent need for South Africans to debate issues of inequality in our society. 

The first – a sad event – on January 1 this year was the passing of Anthony Atkinson, which hardly received a mention in the South African press. 

Sir Anthony Barnes Atkinson – or Tony Atkinson as he was known – was a British economist who is without doubt the doyen of studies on inequality. 

Atkinson, somewhat against the grain for an an economist of the modern era, pioneered the historical, empirical and theoretical study of inequality. While classical economists such as Marx and Ricardo were concerned with inequality, their approach was very much theoretical. 

Atkinson pioneered the gathering and analysis of historical data on inequality, enabling us to understand patterns of economic growth and inequality. Through many years of painstaking work, he put together and analysed inequality data, first in Britain and later in much of the developed world... [Read more]

This opinion piece first appeared in The Star newspaper and can be read in full here: Imraan Valodia is Dean of the Commerce, Law and Management Department at Wits University.