Since its birth, the US has always defined itself as a egalitarian meritocracy, fundamentally distinct from the class-ridden societies of Europe.
And at times, this has even been true. On the eve of the American Revolution, the income distribution of American colonists was far more equal than those of the mother country. “Indeed, New England and the Middle Colonies appear to have been more egalitarian than anywhere else in the measurable world,” wrote economic historians in a 2012 paper. (To be clear, it’s difficult to consider a slave-holding society egalitarian at all. It was brutally unequal. But from an income distribution perspective, American colonists—meaning white men—were better off than their counterparts in Europe.)