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on January 12, 2016
Quite a scary look at the development of a plutocracy in the U.S. His discussion of the bank bailout gives a classic example of how deeply corrupt the system is.

Personally, though, I would have liked to have seen more specific examples of some of the points that he makes, especially with regard to the role of the media

He seems to have made a conscious effort to make the subject more understandable to the general reader (the non-economist), being conscious that it really is a subject that everyone needs to hear about.
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on December 27, 2012
Economics Nobel laureate, Fulbright scholar, MIT Ph. D, former chief economist of the World Bank and Council of Economic Advisor Joseph Stiglitz isn't a lone voice. I'm tempted to label Stiglitz as being on the political `left', but Stiglitz does not reflexively sneer at conservative ideas. Stiglitz's writing is reasonable and he's generally apolitical. Compared to other commentators and authors, Stiglitz is more somber and not so politically strident.

Stiglitz starts out asserting the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements share the view that political systems are failing to meet the needs of most of society and are increasingly unfair to the overwhelming portion of society. Markets are shaped by politics, and they are not working the way they need to to promote stable markets. Inequalities in society are the main problem. This beginning led me to think this book would be addressing global macroeconomic issues, but Stiglitz proceeds to use most of his words in addressing U.S. economic policies. His main topic in this book is that economic inequality is an emergent aspect of U.S. political policy. The richest segment of U.S. society is gaining wealth at the expense of the middle and bottom segments of society. The rich know how to use lawyers and politicians to gain private returns for themselves, at the expense of social benefits and job security for most of the rest of us in the U.S. This transfer of benefits from the bottom and middle of society to the top income brackets is not obvious. The effects are increased inequalities, and destabilization and devaluation of our economic, judicial, and political systems. The U.S. will continue to decline rapidly due to the failures of U.S. political system to address inequalities in our society.

Stiglitz is unsparing in his critiques of the Obama administration. He believes the President should have urged prosecution of the bankers and financiers who nearly ruined the economy in 2007-8. He is critical of U.S. laws which do not protect the interests of citizens in recovering from bankruptcy. He is critical that government policy is not stimulating innovation. He accuses an unnamed Obama administration person of being "schizophrenic" in claiming the government bailout of the banks (a policy Stiglitz excoriates) had a contractual responsibility to honor banker bonuses, but at the same time, union autoworkers had to accept a contractual revision which substantially lowered their wages and benefits. On pg. 200 Stiglitz writes, "the Obama administration actually fought against attempts by states to hold the banks accountable." There are many more specific criticisms of the Obama administration in this book. To my surprise, he is critical of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations.

Stiglitz raises many thought provoking ideas, e.g. (pg. 61) "imagine, for a moment, what the world would be like if there was free mobility of labor, but no mobility of capital." He asserts the GDP is not a good measure of economic health, because the it disproportionally reflects the gains made by the most wealthy. Stiglitz states that standard economics theories don't take into account the sense of fair play, and the changes in behavior when people feel they are unfairly treated. He criticizes the Federal Reserve and describes it as a political entity operated by unelected officials who are wrongly focused on keeping inflation low for the benefit of bankers and finance, when they should and could be concerned with lowering the rate of unemployment.

I would have liked more analysis about where Stiglitz thinks the current trends towards increasing inequality will lead society. I think he could have mentioned ideas and suggestions for fixing the burgeoning costs in Medicare and Social Security. He could have offered more specifics - but then his emphasis would shift from warning to policy. This book challenged my thinking and broadened my understanding of the relationships between political and macroeconomic policies. The Price of Inequality is tinged with pessimism, though in the last chapter, "The Way Forward", Stiglitz offers general ideas that could improve socio-economic conditions in the future. Despite this last chapter, I don't sense he is optimistic about the future vitality of U.S socioeconomic conditions.
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on May 1, 2015
As a person with an undergraduate degree in Political Science, I have avoided books written by persons with degrees in Economic, as they in my judgment invent new economic rules to justify any harebrained idea they want to try and persuade you is justification for recommending their viewpoint. I overcame this inhabitation in this case because of my concern for our divided society. I am thankful I did. I hope enough other people who may share my inhabitation overcome it as the author lays out a logical progression of who politicians have used flawed economic rules to benefit their political motives all to the determent of our national attribute as the land of opportunity. I pray we can muster the courage as a nation to take back from the politicians the privileges they have wrongfully plundered from our national heritage. It is a very powerful presentation and is well reasoned in its conclusion and even offers actions to retake our national standing as the land of opportunity.
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on April 18, 2013
This is the best explanation I have read on why the country (the USA) suffers so much; it suffers from the effects of the richest people on the earth in the richest country in the history of the planet using their monetary and political power to game the system, tilt the playing field in their own direction, re-write the tax laws, off-shore their profits, and thereby basically vacuum up all the huge gains that have accrued in GNP since 1980. While the bottom 2/5ths of the country's workers' wages have either gone down or flatlined, worker productivity has gone up substantially. Did the workers get paid more for their vast increase in productivity? No. The 1% took all the gains for themselves. Why? Because they could. Why could they? Because they wrote the laws (see ALEC), paid for the campaigns of the law-makers, and own the media that "tells the story" that the American people hear. How many large TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, news magazines, and other news sources from which the mainstream of the American populace receive their information are NOT owned by very, very large and very, very rich corporations and the very, very wealthy people that control them? None!

It's all in this book in lucid prose, cogent arguments, and irrefutable clarity. Read it and despair or anger, but read it!
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on December 2, 2013
There seems to be no way to arouse public opinion regarding the growing inequality in The US. At least this book try's. Why truck drivers and day workers continue to defend the oligarchy of our country remains to me a profound mystery. I applaud anyone who tries to shed light on it. The rich have an ever expanding share of the national income through rigged rules that have basically turned the US in to the worlds greatest hedge fund with its greatest military as it's enforcement arm. Pathetic. The rich will end up with great bags of money in a society too poor attend to their needs.
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on October 4, 2012
Stiglitz has put together an excellent account of aspects of our economic backdrop that create and promote ineqality. He discusses how these outcomes hurt growth and lay the seeds of large problems. He is foundational in his approach and focuses on clear examples of market failures and information asymmetries that have misaligned income with outcome. Given his nobel prize was related to information asymmetries, Stiglitz is extremely well positioned to discuss how market failures interfere with the marginal productivity of labour theory.

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.
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on January 12, 2014
Stiglitz points out the decline of our economy and its effect on democracy. We've moved to an economy that benefits only one-percent of Americans. Stiglitz shows that this will eventually hurt even the 1% which Warren Buffet has pointed out.

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.
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on June 1, 2014
The Price of Inequality is a wonderful treatise on the various effects, primary, secondary, and so on, of the wealth disparity that is currently plaguing America. Furthermore, it is a wonderful examination of the concentration of wealth, and therefore power, into the hands of the few. Stiglitz does a very good job of connecting many of the dots and illuminating for us the path that America is taking toward an oligarchy.

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.
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on November 18, 2012
Want to get an overview of how we got to the 1% to 99% skewed distribution of income and wealth in the past 30 years and what we could do about it? Read Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality. If you read Krugman regularly you will find Steglitz familiar but more reasonable and considerably more comprehensive. But you will find 448 pages ahead of you. Like Krugman, Stiglitz totally rejects the supply-sider, austerity, deficit hawks as ideologues ignoring the evidence. He favors augmenting the demand side by doing the following seven things in his own words. In other words, by focusing on the people who have been hurt, instead of the ones who did the hurting.

1. Curbing the financial sector. Since so much of the increase in inequality is associated with the excesses of the financial sector, it is a natural place to begin a reform program. Dodd-Frank is a start, but only a start.

2...impose progressive taxes and, most importantly, do a better job in closing loopholes. As we've seen, in recent decades, we've been creating a less progressive tax system.

3. Improving access to education... Health care for all... Strengthening other social protection programs...

4. Globalization and technology both contribute to the polarization of our labor market, but they are not abstract market forces that just arrive from on high; rather, they are shaped by our policies.

5...well-designed macropolicies can actually achieve all three objectives simultaneously-- lower debts and deficits, faster growth and employment, and an improved distribution of income.

6. Supporting workers' and citizens' collective action... Affirmative action, to eliminate the legacy of discrimination.

7. A growth agenda, based on public investment... Redirecting investment and innovation-- to preserve jobs and the environment.

But, Stiglitz writes: right now the largest causes of suffering among the 99 percent are in the labor market and housing.

If you are not prepared to be further disillusioned about Presidents Clinton and Obama and the Democratic Party do not read the book.

Jerry Woolpy
Minocqua Wisconsin
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on June 23, 2012
I liked this work, and it with Paul Krugman's End This Depression Now!, I hope that they can help set the conversation economically for this current election and policy going forward.

With regards to Stiglitz's book, I finished it this week and was surprised to find no reference to the "Spirit Level", which kept popping up in my mind as I read it -- the book was calling out for reference, but missed for some reason.

But if you really ask me, the need for synthesis lies between "The Price of Inequality" and Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Communitythere's a huge social-science lever that's waiting to be pushed.
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