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For a couple of centuries or more after the French Revolution whose banners were inscribed ‘liberté, egalité, fraternité’, equality was a value at the centre of political aspiration and policy-making. More recently, its most obvious manifestation, equality of rewards and of incomes, has ceded place to the conflicting value of individual success and achievement.

As money has come to be, as never before, at once the driving force and magnetic goal of the rich societies like Britain and the USA, the strength of equality has faded for a while, but it is a truism that no modern society can tolerate for long such grotesque and brutal discrepancies of wealth as now are to be found in the USA (the top 1,000 chief executives in the ...

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