Is everyone who participates in a capitalist economy—from store clerks to tech titans—more or less equally important to that economy’s healthy functioning? Or is there a special class of people who are truly essential to capitalism? Some thinkers have emphasized the monumental cooperative effort that’s required to produce the most mundane of products, while others, such as the novelist Ayn Rand, have focused on the elite few whose world-changing ideas and inventions are rocket fuel to the engine of commerce. As Chicago Booth’s John Paul Rollert explains, whichever view you lean toward may have implications for your ideas about inequality.

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