Should Only the Richest Pay More?

68 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2022 Last revised: 12 Jun 2023

Date Written: September 19, 2022


This paper challenges the leading academic, political, and cultural narrative supporting greater redistribution. The narrative holds that redistribution should come at the expense of a very restricted group of the highest earners: the one percent, the super-rich, the billionaire class. I argue that many reasons offered in support of this view call for redistribution from a much broader group that includes the affluent—those with incomes in the ninetieth to ninety-ninth percentiles of the distribution. Whether one looks at the recent trends in income concentration, wealth concentration, social mobility, political representation, or the rise of populism, the affluent are as great—and sometimes greater—contributors to these problems as those in the top one percent. Remarkably, contemporary legal scholarship has ignored the affluent almost completely, greatly limiting the magnitude of possible economic transfers as well the forms that these transfers may take. This paper reveals the analytical weakness of the prevailing narrow view. Higher taxes on the affluent should fully enter distributional debates.

Keywords: progressive taxes, redistribution, top one percent, affluent

JEL Classification: K34

Suggested Citation

Raskolnikov, Alex, Should Only the Richest Pay More? (September 19, 2022). Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 662, Columbia Public Law Research Paper , Available at SSRN: or

Alex Raskolnikov (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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