I read "Natural Experiments of History", edited by Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson (2010).
I am a big fan of Diamond's, as noted in these earlier blog posts. In school, history was always my worst subject -- no logic, no point in memorizing dates. Diamond's work tries to tease out the "why" of history, and he is extremely good at it.
This book has 8 cases of comparing historical development that diverged from similar beginnings, and attempting to evaluate theories of why history diverged as it did. It was surprisingly topical politically in that several of the articles dealt in why different countries developed at different rates economically. In all of these, it turned out that the sooner feudal and old regime type systems were put aside and more modern democratic institutions were put in place, the more rapid the economic development.
The more you think about that, the more obvious it seems. When wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few, it festers there, as the primary interest of the privileged few is protecting the exclusivity of their wealth and power. In contrast, the more people can have a real chance to borrow money, build a business, better educate their children, etc, the faster an economy will develop and prosper.
So how can the 1% not realize this? I really think that the overall standard of living was improving to the point where they just didn't feel "rich enough". I mean really, someone practically a beggar can maybe buy a smartphone as good as that of the richest man in the world. Where is the justice in that? What about all his hard work? (or not if he inherited his wealth).