This can be rather a self-serving point in the British and US debates. There are very good examples of economically competitive, relatively egalitarian societies.
As ever, football can offer an important illustration of the issues at stake.
As the Fabian Society has demonstrated, social concerns about falling social mobility have been mirrored by a stark collapse of "football mobility", from the level playing field days when Brian Clough lifted the European Cup in 1979, very much mirroring the broader social mobility debate. English football was the most open of the major European leagues, but is no longer.
The most competitive league in Europe is now the German Bundelsliga. They have not seen anything like the same level of stratification as in England, Spain and Italy.
Gabriele Marcoti made the point at the end of last season in The Times - that you can have a more existing football season, bigger crowds and more sustainable finances, but may risk paying a price on the European stage.
To all this you might ask: “Yes, but are they any good?” Well, the answer is that it depends on what benchmark you use. If you take Champions League success, the answer is a resounding “no”. In the past seven years, Bundesliga sides have provided only four representatives to the last eight of the world’s premier club competition; by contrast, the Premier League has had 17 quarter-finalists.
But that’s only one guide. And it measures the achievements of the very best, not top-to-bottom quality. And if there is one thing that seems certain, it’s that this is one of the most balanced leagues in the world. Wolfsburg won the title at a rate of 2.03 points a game, a rate that was bettered by each of the top three sides in England.
Seven teams have finished in the top four over the past two seasons; while the Premier League has featured the same top four sides for the past four years (and six of the past seven).
At a European level, the Champions League is very competitive at the level of individual clubs. But the chances of victory are now much more limited, particularly to the biggest clubs from Spain and England, and sometimes Italy.
The European dominance of Ajax and Bayern Munich in the 1970s, even the victory of Jose Mourinho's Porto, now seem to belong to a different age, to say nothing of the ability of clubs such as Celtic, Aston Villa and Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest to conquer Europe.
As with bank bonuses or a Robin Hood tax, rebalancing the football playing field will require international coordination, at Michel Platini's left foot at UEFA.
In the meantime, showing that greater fairness and global success are not incompatible makes the social democratic case for supporting Bayern Munich against Inter Milan tonight.