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Inequality: What Can Be Done? Hardcover – May 11, 2015
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Tony Atkinson, in many ways the father of modern inequality research, has [written] a terrific new book. (Paul Krugman New York Times)
[Atkinson] does not mind speaking uncomfortable truths. Among them: that the comfort and opportunity provided by wealth matter just as much as the consumption that wealth affords; that holding down a job may not be enough to provide most workers with a standard of living that keeps up with economic growth; and that economic power helps protect itself in subtle and pervasive ways which might well demand an interventionist government response. Sir Anthony’s answer might not be the right one. But if his book reminds the reader how far out of fashion the policies of the post-war decades have fallen, it also conveys how skewed the economy of today might look to an observer from the not so distant past―or, perhaps, from the not so distant future. (The Economist)
Like it or loathe it, this is ambitious stuff. (Tim Harford Financial Times)
Provides us with the broad outlines of a new radical reformism… [Atkinson] sets forth a list of concrete, innovative, and persuasive proposals meant to show that alternatives still exist, that the battle for social progress and equality must reclaim its legitimacy, here and now… Witty, elegant, profound, this book should be read: it brings us the finest blend of what political economy and British progressivism have to offer… This is a book written by an optimist and a citizen of the United Kingdom, Europe, and the world: the broad sense it conveys of a more just economy is one of its many appealing qualities. It will stand as a model whatever the outcome of one election or another. (Thomas Piketty New York Review of Books)
Atkinson takes a position that is in some ways more radical than Piketty… It will surely influence debate as the presidential campaign heats up… Atkinson has researched inequality and poverty for nearly 40 years, using rigorous quantitative analysis to assess the impact of tax rates and other 6policy measures on inequality and growth. [Inequality] focuses on the United Kingdom, but it’s easy to extrapolate his ideas to the U.S.… His book will embolden those who are tired of nibbling at the edges of the problem and skeptical of the argument that rising inequality is the inevitable result of globalization and technical advance. It should stimulate creative and bold thinking as the presidential candidates put their proposals before the public. (David Brodwin U.S. News & World Report)
The best of the new crop of books [on income inequality] is Anthony B. Atkinson’s Inequality: What Is to Be Done? Not unrelatedly, it is also the most solutions-oriented. (Drew Nelles Globe and Mail)
Inequality: What Can Be Done?, is an effort to keep the issue of inequality on the agenda of politicians, economists, and citizens alike… [It] is explicitly solutions-oriented… The book offers a number of original policy suggestions… [Atkinson’s] mastery of detail and comfort with costings mean that his proposals seem not only imaginative but also practically feasible… Inequality is now an issue that political parties, on all parts of the ideological spectrum, cannot dismiss. And that is partly because of the work of academics such as Thomas Piketty and Anthony Atkinson… The books by Piketty and Atkinson have prompted renewed attention to matters of economic distribution, and have strengthened a public movement that has put pressure on governments to tackle inequality… Atkinson’s Inequality: What Can Be Done? deserves credit for contributing considerable intellectual resources to that important struggle. (Max Harris New Statesman)
When a giant among UK economists such as Sir Tony Atkinson publishes a book in which he gives prescriptions based on the work of a lifetime, it deserves to be taken very seriously indeed...The work is rich in ideas and practical proposals. (Michael Pinto-Duschinsky Standpoint)
[An] important contribution…Those who desire a thought-provoking guide to policy options [to address inequality] in advanced countries should grapple with Atkinson’s work. (Martin Wolf Financial Times)
Atkinson is a pioneer of the study of the economics of poverty and inequality. His latest work, Inequality: What Can Be Done?, is an uncomfortable affront to our reigning triumphalists. His premise is straightforward: inequality is not unavoidable, a fact of life like the weather, but the product of conscious human behavior. (Owen Jones The Guardian)
About the Author
Anthony B. Atkinson was a Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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Wait, not the book, but the fact that some have much more than others and that it is truly impossible to justify that in terms of hard work - whatever that means.
Inequality has been the elephant in the room that was ignored for so long until Piketty blew up for some reason last year. It's weird how that happens in the culture. I bought Piketty’s book Capital on pre-order and only got about 100 pages in,. By the time I actually got the book, I had read so many blogs going back and forth over it that I had felt like I had already read it.
Anthony B. Atkinson’s book, “Inequality: What can be done?” didn’t get the same attention when it came out in 2015, and I’m not sure why not. Maybe the bloggers on both sides had decided that it was time to look at something else - secular stagnation, when will the Fed achieve liftoff from the zero lower bound, is the Phillips curve still a thing. Or maybe because Atkinson’s book felt a little less universal than Piketty with his laws so that people could argue if r was less than, greater than, or equal to g. Either way, the fact that people didn’t let this book blow up in the same way is shameful, because it is more straightforward and systematic and economical with the prose. If anything, it fails because it is less grandiose than Piketty, looking at changes that can be made at the national level instead of some global wealth tax. Instead he has a constellation of proposals and an examination of their feasibility and potential cost. If anything for popular American readers, it might be seen as a bit dry and a bit too focused on somewhere that is not America, but the proposals are transferable. Importantly though, Atkinson doesn’t leave his proposals as the definitive answer, accepting that the economy exists in flux with many variables - making his work not just some answers but a jumping off point for further discussion, We just have to be brave enough to join that discussion.
Atkinson’s proposals for action and reform are not merely fiscal or purely political. His appears to be a multi-prong approach and thus merits serious study. In theory, this might have been a nice plan but his proposals may lead one to query the practicality of his views. He has a basic socialist approach in which he advocates greater government action such as creating a national pay policy with minimum wage, a capital endowment paid to all adults, progressive tax, and social insurance, but at the same time he also believes in continued social security contributions. The only problem with his admirable plan in creating a fairer distribution of wealth is that we have first to create sufficient wealth in those countries in which equality has little significance because everyone is mired in poverty. Francois Bourguinon's book, 'The Globalization of Inequality', 2015 Princeton University Press, may be a good companion to Atkinson's book. The stark reality is that good ideas about equality require strong government, but in capitalist countries, a government is as strong as its political base. There are no easy answers.
Most recent customer reviews
Tax the rich (whoever is rich) and create thousand programs for the poor.