Western cultures have long cherished the notion that all people are created equal. But in the real world, our lives are not balanced with equal opportunities and resources. This distinction was noted mordantly in 1894 by author Anatole France, who wrote that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” The rich, of course, need none of these things, whereas the poor often have little choice. And economic disparity has only gotten worse during the past several decades, particularly in the U.S. In 1976 the richest 1 percent of U.S. citizens owned 9 percent of the country's wealth; today they own nearly 24 percent. This trend echoes around the globe.