How has America become the most unequal advanced country in the world, and what can we do about it?
In The Great Divide, Joseph E. Stiglitz expands on the diagnosis he offered in his best-selling book The Price of Inequality and suggests ways to counter America's growing problem. With his signature blend of clarity and passion, Stiglitz argues that inequality is a choice - the cumulative result of unjust policies and misguided priorities.
Gathering his writings for popular outlets including Vanity Fair and The New York Times, Stiglitz exposes in full America's inequality: its dimensions, its causes, and its consequences for the nation and for the world. From the Reagan era to the Great Recession and its long aftermath, Stiglitz delves into the irresponsible policies - deregulation, tax cuts, and tax breaks for the 1 percent - that are leaving many Americans further and further behind and turning the American dream into an ever more unachievable myth. With formidable yet accessible economic insight, he urges us to embrace real solutions: increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy; offering more help to the children of the poor; investing in education, science, and infrastructure; helping out homeowners instead of banks; and, most importantly, doing more to restore the economy to full employment. Stiglitz also draws lessons from Scandinavia, Singapore, and Japan, and he argues against the tide of unnecessary, destructive austerity that is sweeping across Europe.
Ultimately, Stiglitz believes, our choice is not between growth and fairness; with the right policies, we can choose both. His complaint is not so much about capitalism as such but how 21st-century capitalism has been perverted. His is a call to confront America's economic inequality as the political and moral issue that it is.
©2015 Joseph E. Stiglitz (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
No where in the book summary or reviews was I warned that this is a collection of articles, not a book. What's wrong with that? It is very repetitive. If you have the stamina (or shortness of memory) to make it through this volume, you will hear Stiglitz's favorite phrases nearly a dozen times each.
Stiglitz has an important but limited repertoire of effectively describing causes and effects of inequality, followed by less effectively listing mitigating measures, and then lamely inferring that achieving greater equality would bring economic utopia and endless rapid growth. Having read many economists, I find Stiglitz to be comparatively shallow in terms of accounting for issues beyond his main concern. Inequality is only one among several significant economic challenges for the future. We also face the resource constraints, growing population, and the costs of dealing with climate change. The economist with the best grasp of all these issues is Herman Daly.
Although I'm sympathetic to the author's agenda and thoroughly enjoyed Piketty's Capitalism, I struggled to get through this. Not only repetitive in nature - the various essays inevitably make some of the same points over and over again - the tone seems to be intellectually snobbish. I felt like the author was out to show everyone why they should have been listening to him when he felt ignored or disregarded.
Joseph Stiglitz is a brilliant economist and Nobel Laureate, who has many useful things to say about our country and the way it has been managed - or mismanaged - in the years since World War II. I've heard him speak on numerous occasions - he's a frequent guest on news and opinion programs; and I've always been impressed by the cogency of his ideas and the clarity with which he expresses them. So it was disappointing that these characteristics weren't carried over more effectively into this book.
It's not that Stiglitz shows less understanding of our economy in the book or any less concern for the growing effects of inequality between wealth and poverty. If you're not already familiar with what he has to say on these subjects, then you may find the book well worth reading. My objections have to do with the way it was written - or perhaps I should say "assembled". It seemed to me that The Great Divide was put together from articles that Stiglitz had written and published in other venues, without spending much time or effort converting them into a coherent whole for the book. As a result, there's considerable repetition from one part to another and the flow of ideas is erratic to say the least. I gave the book two stars for content on the basis of this slap-dash approach. I gave Mr. Pariseau four stars, not because he overcame the defects with a brilliant performance (which probably wouldn't have been possible in any event), but because he tried.
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