Americans see tensions over income inequality growing, but Charles Murray thinks they've got it all wrong. "Income inequality isn't really the problem," the libertarian author writes in Time. "A new upper class is the problem," a group denoted not by its wealth, but by its power, influence, and culture. Imagine a guy who started his own auto repair shop, and was so successful that he made $100 million. "He's in the top fraction of the 1%—but he's not part of the new upper class."
"The new upper class is different. It consists of the people who run the country," controlling its government, media, corporations, and legal institutions. "What makes the new upper class new is that its members … share a common culture that separates them from the rest of the country," marked by "distinctive tastes and preferences." They increasingly look down on mainstream America. "If this divide continues to widen, it will completely destroy what has made America's national civic culture exceptional: a fluid, mobile society."