We've all heard that the American Dream is vanishing, and that the cause is rising income inequality. The rich are getting richer by rigging the system in their favor, leaving the rest of us to struggle just to keep our heads above water. To save the American Dream, we're told that we need to fight inequality through tax hikes, wealth redistribution schemes, and a far higher minimum wage.
But what if that narrative is wrong? What if the real threat to the American Dream isn't rising income inequality - but an all-out war on success?
In this timely and thought-provoking work, Don Watkins and Yaron Brook reveal that almost everything we've been taught about inequality is wrong. You'll discover:
The critics of inequality are right about one thing: The American Dream is under attack. But instead of fighting to make America a place where anyone can achieve success, they are fighting to tear down those who already have. The real key to making America a freer, fairer, more prosperous nation is to protect and celebrate the pursuit of success - not pull down the high fliers in the name of equality.
©2016 Don Watkins and Yaron Brook (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
...it is a rather shallow treatment of the economic philosophy it espouses. It has too much of pseudo-philosopher Ayn Rand and too little of far better theorists, free market economists, and political philosophers such as Fredrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Jean-Baptiste Say, Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, or Thomas Sowell. For those who want a sound understanding without excessive theory,I recommend any of several books by Thomas Sowell who is the greatest living economist and political philosopher. Audible has approximately 25 of his books. The best place to start is Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies followed by Wealth, Power, and Politics and then A Conflict of Visions followed by Applied Economics and finally Dismantling America. Of course Hayek's The Road to Serfdom is mandatory.
The primary title of this book Equal is Unfair without the subtitle America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality is too clever by half. The basic point that we should have equality of opportunity rather than striving for equality of economic outcome is valid because achieving equality of economic outcome always leads to universal poverty. Where Ayn Rand and her two followers who wrote this book go wrong is by claiming government has no appropriate role in economic matters. They are dead wrong: the role of government is to establish the rules and apply them equally, without favor.
In my opening comment above I wrote that the approach of the authors of this book is rather shallow in their treatment of economic and political philosophy. I stand by that, but I will add that listening to this book is better than nothing. Fredrich Hayek and Ayn Rand were contemporaries. Hayek's classical political and economic liberalism makes a lot more sense than Rand's unworkable Objectivism which is a form of anarchy. Rand was a great novelist, but fails as a political philosopher. It is to the credit of the authors, both of whom work at the Ayn Rand Institute that they do not go all in with Objectivism.
If one purchases this audio book be certain to download the PDF file of charts/graphs some of which are excellent especially at demonstrating that real income has increased during the last 30 to 40 years. Jeff Cummings does a superb job of narration.
If you expect this book to explain why equality is unfair you will probably be disappointed. The central theme seems to be "we are all better off than we were before so inequality doesn't matter, and may even be a myth". The authors jumble and cherry pick a bunch of facts and statistics to make their case. For example they blame the unions for the American car industry's decline in the 1970's, but chose to ignore the fact that the manufacturers failed to understand what consumers wanted and produce cars accordingly.
In fairness, the book description made it clear that the views expressed would be biased. I had hoped, however it would get beyond the level of propaganda, and provide some good ideas for thought - even if I disagreed with them.
Although I agree with the premise of the book and there is a lot of good content, I found the book average overall because it contained too much commentary, and hypothetical and rhetorical questions for every solid fact it presented.
This is all presentation of old arguments. There is no new research or new spins on previous theory. Read Sowell instead.
An extremely important discussion in the midst of the ever increasing trend in today's culture of divorcing one's self and one's thoughts from reality and rationality. Filled with data, charts, and other references that objectively refute claims of today's inequality alarmists and back up their own.
One of the greatest insights is the only way of eliminating cronyism is to "...create a government that has no favors to grant."
A striking example of the inequality critics' ideology taken to an extreme was that of the horrific Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. One quote from the dictator, Pol Pot lays out the ideology quite explicitly:
"If we can destroy all material and mental property, people will be equal. The moment you allow private property, one person will have a little more, another a little less and then they are no longer equal, and it isn’t communism. But if you have nothing – zero for him, zero for you – that is true equality."
The only true economic equality can be that of the zero, nothingness. Why is this held by some as a moral ideal? The authors point out that, while most egalitarians don't advocate for this extreme application:
"egalitarianism is evil, not because it puts us on a slippery slope to the Khmer Rouge -- it is evil because, IN ANY DOSE, it amounts to waging war on human values: achievement, virtue, independence, intelligence, wealth, opportunity, everything that makes human life and happiness possible. The fact that egalitarianism DOES put us on a slippery slope toward mass carnage only makes matters worse."
I will finish with a quote that summarizes the main debate:
"Americans today face a choice between two moral views. One view upholds JUSTICE: it says that each individual has an equal right to pursue his own happiness and success, and that whatever wealth, income, and opportunities he earns in that pursuit belong to him.
"Another view upholds 'social justice': it says that the government must restrict our freedom to make us economically equal, and that if one person produces 'too much', his hopes and dreams should be sacrificed for the sake of those who haven't produced.
"Either we're all equal in our rights or some people are to be met with burdens and others with special privileges. That is the choice."
I would say they are equal. Jeff Cummings does a fantastic job in his narration.
The comparisons to American ideals and founding principles.
This book turned out to be so much more than just the issue of "income inequality'. 'Equal is Unfair' goes after all of the major tenets of modern Leftism. Don Wakins and Dr. Yaron Brook raze modern leftism to the ground, leave no stone unturned, and salt the earth afterwards. The book takes down:
The inequality myth.
The Scandinavian socialism myth.
The myth that the successful are 'exploiters'
The economic pie myth.
Leftwing economist Piketty's statistical manipulations.
The "You didn't build that" rhetoric from those like Warren and Obama.
The left's Success=Luck argument.
FDR and LBJ's Great Society programs.
"Social Justice" advocates.
The inculcation of victimhood by the left in poor ghettos.
And much much more....
Watkins and Dr. Brook attack every leftwing issue on multiple fronts. They prove their case empirically by taking down the statistical manipulations of the left. They prove their case by showing the logical progression of what these ideas entail. They prove their case morally, by showing what these ideas mean to individual human beings and life on this earth, and finally they prove their case by offering a solid alternative.
The subject is explained with lots of examples, what makes it easy to understand for people without advanced education on economics themes.
It also explains the different view of philosophical schools on human development, which makes clearer the opinions of authors.
I recommend it to any person interested in the motor that pushes the free will against the government controlled economy.
I rated it with five stars because its clarity, I learn some new concepts, and enjoyed it.
While I agree with many concepts in this book the authors don't support their claims the way I would have liked to see. More citations of research and studies with actual data would have bolstered their arguments. I'm not questioning the accuracy of the information, I was just looking for more substance and new ideas that I haven't come across before.
I wish more people will read this book and understand that socialism does not deliver on its promises. One thing I think the book missed was that it needed to express a little be more compassion on the poor. although I agree with the author on almost all his ideas
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