America's stunning inequality is not just economic, it is also an inequality of the soul, writes Nick Kristof in the New York Times. Citing the work of two British epidemiologists, Kristof argues that severe inequality "tears at the human psyche, creating anxiety, distrust, and an array of mental and physical ailments." The core of the argument is that humans are social animals, and profound inequality creates a range of pathologies in the have-nots, including heart disease, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, crime, suicide, and cancer. Experiments with monkeys reveal similar patterns.
"There will always be some who are more wealthy—and others who constitute the bottom," writes Kristof. "But inequality does not have to be as harsh, oppressive, and polarized as it is in America today," with the top 1% of the population hording more wealth than the bottom 90%. The solution, Kristof argues, is to create an America that is more fair, like Germany or Japan, or even like the United States during the Clinton administration. "These inequities seem profoundly unhealthy, for us and for our nation’s soul," he concludes.