Most of us are bored by economics, or scared of it. Our eyes glaze over at the abstract language. When we can’t understand, we feel stupid. We turn away or get angry.

Getting angry may be the healthier response. Americans have gotten angry lately, learning about mortgage frauds and the financial wizards who sold these around the world with obscure language no one was sure they understood. Who benefits form complex financial schemes? Not you and me. We just got stuck with another $700 billion bailout for investment banks, demanded by the same Wall Streeters whose political party rails against “socialism.”

Here’s some enlightening graphs that show the phenomenal increase in the net worth of millionaires and billionaires since 1983, about the time when conservative economist Milton Friedman first influenced “neo-liberalism” worldwide. Pay special attention to the long blue bar on the right.

The weathiest 2% now own nearly half the world’s wealth, thanks to a so-called free market that favors the “redistribution” of money upward. Friedman’s ideas influenced Reaganomics here over 20 years ago. In the days of kings, neo-liberalism used to be called laissez-faire economics. Both reject regulation and interference with the rich. However, now that the richest banks are in trouble, these same neo-liberals run to us taxpayers. Those of us who believe in a more democratic economy (like Paul Krugman, I hope) think this is a good idea–but not with a continued sense of royal privilege for CEOs and speculative investors.

Here’s a link to a quote from John Maynard Keynes, an early 20th century economist whose ideas were overthrown by Friedman: “Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.”