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The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality Hardcover – December 28, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Milanovic defies the typical image of an economist by presenting research overlaid with humor, literary insights, and fully imagined portraits of daily life as he examines inequality across time and continents. He weighs the wealth divide between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice as well as Anna Karenina’s financial prospects had she married Vronsky. He ponders John Rawls, Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and others to explore theories regarding the rich and the poor. Using complicated economic models that he explains very well, Milanovic breaks down incomes to make comparisons between the haves and the have-nots within nations, between nations, and among citizens of the world. He offers vignettes that make his concepts all the more accessible and entertaining as he explains the errors of Marxism and why a person’s relative wealth is determined more by their country of origin than by their family’s wealth. Milanovic writes as much like a philosopher as an economist as he ponders the growing trend of inequality in income around the world and answers questions many readers likely ask themselves about their economic prospects. --Vanessa Bush


New York Times Book Review
“[A]n eclectic book on inequality…. [Milanovic’s] colorful vignettes…are almost uniformly delightful. No matter where you are on the income ladder, Milanovic’s examination of whether Bill Gates is richer than Nero makes for great cocktail party conversation.”

New York Journal of Books
“[Branko Milanovic] has fun with economics…. Behind the fun are some serious concerns about growing global income inequality…. And underlying the fun facts is a prodigious amount of research: everything from demographic patterns in 13th century Paris to interest rates in ancient Rome.”
Library Journal
“[A]n innovative look at price and consumption differences…. Students, practitioners, and anyone interested in economics and the issue of inequality would enjoy this.”
Booklist, starred review
“Milanovic defies the typical image of an economist by presenting research overlaid with humor, literary insights, and fully imagined portraits of daily life as he examines inequality across time and continents…. Milanovic writes as much like a philosopher as an economist as he ponders the growing trend of inequality in income around the world and answers questions many readers likely ask themselves about their economic prospects.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[A] timely look at the inequality of income and wealth…. Authoritative.”

Simon Johnson, Professor at MIT Sloan and co-author of the national bestseller 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
“A brilliant tour through inequality, writ large and small, across the ages. Economics is often considered as ‘dismal’ and you may not be cheered up by what has been regarded as an acceptable distribution of income in the past (and what may be coming to our future). But The Haves and the Have-Nots is far from being a dismal book – it is entertaining, draws you in, and makes you think; this is the right way to draw attention to the substantive issues. Enrollments in economics courses would rise sharply if more writers followed Branko Milanovic’s lead.”
Moisés Naím, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers,
and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
“This is one of the most entertaining and original books you can read on a hot-button subject that will increasingly dominate the conversations in homes and government offices around the world. Economic inequality has always been part of the human experience and Branko Milanovic masterfully explains why it is still with us and why politicians, policy makers and the public are so often allured by policies that deepen inequality instead of reducing it. A delightful read!”
James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
“Charming, erudite, curious and deeply informed about every aspect of economic inequality. Branko Milanovic takes us on a tour from Austen to Tolstoy, from ancient Rome to modern Brazil via the late Soviet Union. He explores almost all the ways of thinking about inequality that there are. And he makes it seem easy, which it definitely is not.”
Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2009 President of the American
Economic Association, author of The Analysis of Household Surveys: A Microeconometric Approach to Development Policy
“Where do you rank in the all-time world distribution of income? How about Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy? Or Anna Karenina? Was Octavian Augustus richer than Bill Gates? Why might China fall apart, like the USSR and Yugoslavia? Why should we care about differences in income and wealth? In this book of many delights, Branko Milanovic, who has spent 25 years studying global inequality, provides us with a veritable Arabian Nights of stories about inequality, drawing from history, literature, and everywhere in the world. A pleasure to read, and an eye-opener for haves and for have-nots alike.”
Thomas Pogge, Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University, author of World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms
“Learn about the serious subject of economic inequality while you have plenty of fun traveling around the globe and far back in time! Through fascinating stories and wonderful illustrations, Branko Milanovic explains income and wealth inequality – their concepts, measurement, evolution, and role in human life – without compromising precision or balance. This is a delightful book, as commendable for vacations as for the classroom.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books
“[A] thoughtful new book that comes to grips with a much weightier topic, involving one of the biggest issues of our time: the inequality of incomes…. Milanovic’s brief and idiosyncratic little book provides quite an education.”
The Spectator (London)
“If you have the slightest interest in politics and macro-economics, you should be [in possession of this book].”
Time Out for Entertainment (Denver)
“Talk about a timely book. The Haves and the Have-Nots will get your blood boiling. World bank economist and expert on global inequality Branko Milanovic takes us back to a time when the world was divided in the very rich few and impoverished masses. He then jolts us to the present, where everyone in society is unquestionably better off, yet the income of the top 1.75% of the world’s population exceeds that of the bottom 77%.... No socialist manifesto, this is instead a thought-provoking work of how we got where we are and where this imbalance will take us.”
Foreign Affairs
“This delightful and quirky book explains in layman’s terms the evolution of income inequality over the years, within countries and between countries…. A growing volume of data on income distribution within countries and new data on purchasing power comparisons between countries have permitted the author…to make quantitative generalizations that could once only be guessed at.”
“[The Haves and the Have-Nots] will keep both specialists and nonspecialists engaged and learning. This is a wonderful book for anyone to read…. Highly recommended.”
Edward Chancellor, Financial Times
“The question of bad inequality is addressed at length in [this] entertaining new book by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic.”

Ethics & International Affairs
“[A] compact and lively examination of the nature, history, and causes of inequality.”


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019748
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Milanovic begins this book by explaining, "The objective of the stories around which this book is organized is to show, in an unusual and entertaining way, how inequality of income and wealth is present in many facets of our daily lives, in the stories we read or the discussions we have around our kitchen tables or in our schools or offices, and how inequality appears when we look at certain well-known phenomena from a different angle...The book is organized around three types of inequalities. In the first part, I deal with inequality among individuals within a single community - typically a nation...In the second part, I deal with inequality in income among countries or nations - which is also intuitively close to most of us because it is the sort of thing we notice when we travel, or when we watch the international news...In the third part, I move to the topic whose relevance and importance are of a much more recent vintage: global inequality, or inequality among all citizens of the world."

Professor Milanovic accomplishes this task by introducing the reader to several tools that professional economists use to describe and quantify inequality; "Kuznets' Hypothesis," the "Gini coefficient," and "Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) dollars," to name a few. The book is, on the whole, very engaging and easy to grasp. Each of the three chapters begins with an essay which is followed by several vignettes, or short stories, that give concrete examples of ideas outlined in the essay. There are more than a few spots in this book where Milanovic does a great job of dispelling some widely held myths.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G.X. Larson on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This short book (about 220 pages) by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic is a great introduction to global economic inequality. The book is made up of three parts: inequality inside of nations, inequality among nations, and inequality among the people of the world. Each of the three sections is introduced with an "essay" that discusses the main ideas and introduces relevant economic tools (such as the Kuznets hypothesis and the Gini coefficient). After each essay Milanivic presents shorter (about six or seven pages each) "vignettes" to help convey the ideas discussed in the preceding essay. For example, one vignette used to convey inequality inside of nations discusses characters' incomes in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Another vignette discusses inequality in the Roman Empire. The vignettes are not all trivial bits of information, though. In fact, most of the book is a serious exposition of inequality; this book is no mere "Freakonomics" for inequality. Some more serious vignettes are concerned with globalization, economic mobility, and redistribution. In short, this book contains a wealth of information.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By George Fulmore on July 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If, like me, you are a nut for statistical data about the world, this is a good book for you...assuming you can stay with it to the end. The author presents a wide range of information as the book builds and builds, but it is near the end that the really good stuff comes. It is worth the wait, in my opinion. At the same time, there are sections of the book that bob and weave a bit. And finding a consistent central theme or focus is not easy.

The author is an economist and an academic. He does not appear, however, to be a great humanist. But he knows his history, pointing out that gaps in earnings primarily occur when "people move from agriculture into industry." He points out that folks around the world were relatively equal prior to the industrial revolution in England, and that most folks in most nations at that time were barely at a subsistence level.

Oh, sure, there were rich Kings and Nobles and such along the way, but they were nothing compared to the wealthy industrialists that were to emerge with industrialization. And as far as regions of the world, it is in the first half of the 18th century that Western Europe and North America really begin to separate from the rest of the world in terms of wealth. Prior to that, the comparative wealth of countries in the world was far more even.

In this line of thinking, the author feels that this is the factor that really defeated Karl Marx and his theories: Instead of the differences in inequality between classes around the world leading to change, it was the differences developed between countries and/or regions of the world that would lead to inequalities. But "Workers of the World, Unite," became more and more irrelevant under this scenario.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pietro Biroli on April 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
very well written book, it gets you thinking aobut the meaning of inequality and the way you can see it all over the world. it's not too technical and approachable from different backgrounds (but I'm an economist, and so sometimes I would have liked to see a little more details --> I guess I'll have to read the papers and books cited as references!)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gderf on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is the best I've found on equality analysis, including introductions to economists Pareto, Kuznets. It's a serious attempt to define equality without the "get the rich" clap trap so prevalent in today's political environment.

There are excellent discussions of economic efficiency and economic justice measurement of inequality by the Gini index. Milakovic shows bias arguing against the use of consumption rather than income as a measure of inequality philosophy of John Rawles inequality is justified as more attention should be given to the condition of the poor. (How about income as a measure for the rich, above the median, and consumption as a measure for the poor?)
The real median wage has been stagnant across the globe. In studying global inequality Milakovic points out that, in contrast to rest of world, there are no poor and rich states.
Of note is the replacement of the USA by the Netherlands as the world's richest country in 1938. Globalization is not creating equality. Milakovic again cites Rawles to suggest that it doesn't matter. Milakovic points out Marx went astray as workers got richer and the proletariat is disappearing. Discussion of colonial exploitation doesn't extend to the USA. Independence has not solved Africa's problems.

Milakovic enters the political arena claiming that Bush promised every American family a home. In my memory it was Clinton who flooded the real estate market with easy money via Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac in the name of the great American dream of home ownership.
He celebrated the repeal of Glass-Steagal legislation and declined to regulate the SWAPS insurance market.

This is a very informative study in spite of the occasional lapse where the author can't resist showing a liberal bias.
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