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The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future Hardcover – June 11, 2012
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“Concise and clearly argued.”
- Publishers Weekly
“An impassioned argument backed by rigorous economic analysis.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“An important and smart new book... It’s a searing read.”
- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
About the Author
Joseph E. Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize–winning economist and the best-selling author of The Great Divide, Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy, The Price of Inequality, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, and Globalization and Its Discontents. He is a columnist for the New York Times and Project Syndicate and has written for Vanity Fair, Politico, The Atlantic, and Harper’s. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.
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The book is divided into 10 chapters. Chapter 1- America's 1 pct problem presents the backgdrop of the distribution of wealth in the US how it has changed over the last 30 years, how the middle class is shrinking and how mean and median GDP are diverging. Chapter 2 - Rent Seeking and the Making of an Unequal Society discusses what is happening to the distribution of income through the recession and how the growing inquality has been created and is not the function of natural market forces. Other high income countries have different distributional outcomes than ours and ours is the worst. The author then discusse show wealth creates power and facilitates changes to the rules of the game to extract rents is an age old problem. Chapter 3 - Markets and Inequality discusses how markets can be modified politically to facilitate better outcomes for those with the power to change market structures. Chapter 4 - Why it matters discusses what the repurcussions of income inequality can be. It is not a standard economic subject but it is an extremely important one (one that was Marx put focus on for example). Chapter 5- Democracy in Peril is a discussion of the failing democracy in the US and how money is influencing politics. The Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to fund campaigns is an example. Chapter 6 - 1984 is upon us will probably create much protest. It discusses how humans dont have rational expectations and respond to questions via framing and how money can change social norms through the shaping of debate to promote beliefs that benefit the 1% as natural outcomes of the most fair state. Chapter 7 - Justice for All discusses how the legal system is not egalitarian and how outcomes for the poor are skewed against them given a lack of resources to maneouvre through the justice system. Chapter 8 - The Battle of the Budget is a discussion of the budget, how we got here and how to think about the problem. Chapter 9 - A macroeconomic policy and a central bank by and for the 1 pct is a condemnation of the central bank. It makes the case that the central bank is an instrument of the 1 percent and its policies promoted the interests of the 1%. I find this chapter quite biased and i think if the author was to argue a point he should discuss the need for macroprudential central banking instead of inflation targetting. Monetary policy cannot substitute for much fiscal failings. The way forward- Another world is possible is an overview of the book with short policy directions to consider.
All in all this book is excellent. It discusses civic duty and justice, it discusses human nature and sociology and it discusses real economics. It gives accounts about how distribution of profits between labour and capital is a function of the institutional and legal regimes, it is not the natural consequence of economic order. It discusses how much invention is founded on public ideas and dwindling public research has an impact on our productivity. This book is political, economic and philosophical and it is well reasoned on all accounts. This puts together a lot of ideas and it does it very well. It is a must read for a well reasoned account of what is happening in the US. One doesnt have to agree with many points, but to ignore such literature would be ignoring important information necessary for productive discourse.
The rich and powerful also buy elections, hurting the economy.
We have an unfair economic, political and legal system. Stiglitz reminds us that workers who feel they have been unfairly treated don't work very hard. Discouraged voters don't vote. There is cynicism about the legal system that locks up one in three black men but let's the criminals that stole millions of houses and nearly brought down the economy to go scott free.
Once again, we have to fight for democracy.
The writing is a bit dry. Stiglitz illustrates and re-illustrates his many points, however effectively, and so sometimes the prose becomes a bit of a chore. It's not a detraction per se but over and over makes for stumbling reading at times.
Also, while Stiglitz various analyses are wonderfully eye-opening, his solutions are fairly mundane Democrat agenda. As a fiercely avowed and registered Independent I would have liked to see more creative solutions, as I don't think the lines either party tows are the answer at this point.
Still, it's a wonderfully analytic book, and it's one that I'd recommend to anyone wondering where, when, and how our country was taken away from us.