The linkage between liberal democracy and income inequality has been the subject of considerable empirical research. However, the literature has largely ignored advances in the techniques for measuring income distribution which help to improve and strengthen the robustness of research findings in this field. by drawing upon recent developments in data collection and formal analyses, this paper explores inequality trends in selected Western democracies over the 1970s and 1980s. The results indicate that the gap between rich and poor is widening in some countries but not in all, thus pointing to the role of national policies in the redistribution of income. Conventional models grounded on demand driven policies persuasively explain declining income inequality, yet fail to account for the rising trends in the 1980s. Reasons for this failure are the omission of political 'slack' as a key dimension in redistributive options and the fallacy of linearity. The paper shows that despite significant progress, we are still not in a position to be confident of our theories and methods.