To understand inequality…

… figure out Harry Potter. Alex Tabarrok writes:

[JK] Rowling’s success brings with it inequality.  Time is limited and people want to read the same books that their friends are reading so book publishing has a winner-take all component.  Thus, greater leverage brings greater inequality.  The average writer’s income hasn’t gone up much in the past thirty years but today, for the first time ever, a handful of writers can be multi-millionaires and even billionaires.  The top pulls away from the median. 

The same forces that have generated greater inequality in writing – the leveraging of intellect, the declining importance of physical labor in the production of value, cultural and economic globalization – are at work throughout the economy.  Thus, if you really want to understand inequality today you must first understand Harry Potter.

Of course, inequality isn’t a bad thing, and is certainly better than being, in Joseph Brodsky’s words, “equal in poverty.” Most of the people who rail against Rowling’s success—and Bill Gates’s, for that matter—are just jealous. That’s all there is to it.