The top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the nation's wealth. And, as Joseph E. Stiglitz explains, while those at the top enjoy the best health care, education, and benefits of wealth, they fail to realize that "their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live."
Stiglitz draws on his deep understanding of economics to show that growing inequality is not inevitable: moneyed interests compound their wealth by stifling true, dynamic capitalism. They have made America the most unequal advanced industrial country while crippling growth, trampling on the rule of law, and undermining democracy. The result: a divided society that cannot tackle its most pressing problems. With characteristic insight, Stiglitz examines our current state, then teases out its implications for democracy, for monetary and budgetary policy, and for globalization. He closes with a plan for a more just and prosperous future.
©2012 Joseph E. Stiglitz (P)2012 Tantor
Yes, I agree with everything in this book. Those who are hooked on the idea of austerity and tax cuts will find it annoying and will search their hearts for ways to deny its ideas. Conformation bias is working overtime these days on both sides of the political spectrum.
It's human nature to choose winners and losers and to cheer for the winners. This is what it has come down to in our society. Unfortunately, this rather short-sighted way of approaching our world means that the winners walk away with most of the wealth.
This book is dense in places and I really need to re-rlisten when my head is not spinning with Obama vs. Romney rhetoric. Which I will do soon. But until then, suffice it to say, the ideas Stiglitz puts forth for making government an agent of economic growth are spot on, but incredibly hard to implement in this political climate. I think we need another mutual enemy now that the cold war is over and Bin Laden is dead. All we have to fight against is ourselves at the moment. And it sickens me.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
There is a fundamental question about inequality this book fails to address. How much inequality is the right amount? Clearly some inequality is both unavoidable and necessary for innovation. This book seems to take the position that the amount of inequality we have now is way too much, but does not propose a goal equality level. I agree that inequality is a bit high, and is getting higher as corporations and the very rich are no longer paying a fair share mostly using loopholes. Nevertheless, I find many of the author’s proposed solutions way over the crazy line. Extending unemployment payments for long periods (do you know people holding off getting a job just in case unemployment is extended again; I do), increasing federal taxes on families earning more than $270K to 70% (history shows this will not work). Stopping investments in productivity (the author phrased it as not investing in labor saving instead invest only in resource saving). Matching the savings of the poor (such policies would be played and end up counter-productive).
It seems the author thinks poor people who were “exploited” by being given homes and a mortgages for which they should never have qualified should now get their mortgages restructured into something they can afford.
The author rages against monopoly powers and do nothing exploiters like Steve Jobs. I found these arguments very poorly supported.
My favorite line was if we follow the author’s recommendations “many more people will have a shot of one day being in the 1%”. Of course, the top 1% will always be 1%. So to increase the 1% we would need to do a 15 minutes of richness kind of deal. The author also mentions education and legal reform without stating any real proposals.
I did agree with the author on a few things. I am also a strong supporter of the estate tax (I think it should be called the slutty heiress tax, not a death tax) and I strongly agree that existing tax loopholes, earmarks, and pork are out of control and related to unsustainable growth in inequality. I never like one sided books that use one side of statistics to make a point (especially when they are making a point I agree with)!
In one instance it cost the state $4 million to save the city $1 million. This is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
Stieglitz's main points are ones that nobody with any moral sense could deny and that can never be restated too often. The solutions he proposes may not seem the best to everyone, but most are eminently sensible, and if we look at things objectively rather from the standpoint of personal interest, we have to approve most of them. For instance, I personally prefer to leave my estate to people close to me without giving any to the government, and if it comes to a vote on the estate tax, I would vote against it out of personal interest, especially when I see the vast sums paid to banks who give obscene amounts to underserving CEOs. However, IF I could vote for all or several of Stieglitz's recommendations as a packet, I would certainly not hesitate!
Stieglitz book is a timely reminder 1. that our entire society has evolved in a deplorable direction during the past few decades and that we are heading somewhere that nobody wants to go 2. that our personal well-being is closely connected to the well-being of the society in which we live, so if that society is undermined by excessive inequality and a pernicious ideology based on selfishness, certain things that may seem to be personal sacrifice are in fact a way to save our society and ourselves. This may not be anything "new", but most of us lose sight of this in our lives. Those who reject Stieglitz's book might well ask themselves whether it is because he uncomfortably pricks their inner moral sensibility that it is more comfortable to ignore.
Do not let negative comments here keep you from reading this book with its important and well-argued message! It was not one of the books I started listening to with the most eagerness, but I was immensely happy and grateful when I did.
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
Books like this one, presumably with charts and tables, are probably better with another medium. However, if you are going to listen to it as I did, it still does a pretty good job. Economic principles are pretty clearly explained, though if it is your first introduction to economics, you will probably want to look a few things up (moral hazard, market failures etc.), but he does't bury you in a mountain of technical language.
As Stiglitz disclaims early, this is not a work for peer review. It is for popular consumption so if you are looking for some deep explanation as to how he arrived at his claims, you'll be left wanting.
I am usually frustrated with books that prescribe solutions that we "merely lack the political will," to accomplish. It seems like activist thumb-twiddling. Every book of this type seems to have a portion like that. This one is no exception. I find the repetition of this trope frustrating.
Non Fiction Reader
If you like Big Government solving all problems regardless of the cost or consequences, then you will agree with the author's thesis. I do not subscribe to his arguments and frankly his are not convincing. It's the old canard that society owes those less successful a handout becasue they are not responsible for their adversity. Whatever personal problems an individual has are not their fault. There is a collective guilt that must be atoned by spending more and only Big Government, in its infinite wisdom, knows how to do it. It glorifies "experts" over common sense. The arguments, in many cases, also twist facts or chose them selectively That in all cases our collective sympathy must triumph over reason.
His arguments are tired and old and unconvincing. But then I don't subscribe to the belief that societies all ills must be addressed and remedied by more government whatever the cost or damage both to society or the economy it causes. He believes that more taxes (revenue) and spending (investments) are good unto themselves and neutral to the economy. He discounts individual will to strive and succeed or to overcome. A cabal of the rich, corporations and conservatives stand in the way of utopia with the federal government in the vangard.
Since I was not persuaded by the arguments, I was less than thrilled by the narrator's seeming enthusiasm. He reminds me of old hippie aquiantences I (still) keep in contact with who chase conspiracies, old rock bands, as well as crystal power et. al. and every new (left) fad, gadget, artifice that arrives.
My overall reaction was disgust. I listened and was not persuaded.
As I don't subscribe to the author's politics or economics I found listening frustrating and tedious. The book raises no new persuasive arguments. It's old wine in old bottles. However, if this it your metier, than you will probably find it re-enforcing...certainly not enlightening.
I'm a freethinker with a never ending desire to learn! Born a Texan, a Californian by choice.
Although this book is full of economic facts, it's easy to understand. After listing to this offering, you will understand why the author won a Nobel Prize in economics. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in knowing more about how the inequality in our economy is hurting this country in multiple ways.
End The Depression Now!, by Paul Krugman
Mr. Boehmer made listening to this book a pleasure!
I particularly found the author's concluding comments thought provoking.
If you purchase this book you will not regret your decision!
It is rare that I write a review and have never started halfway through a book... but I fear I will not finish this book and find myself so disappointed that I feel compelled to write something. Joseph Stiglitz sets up soft arguments and knocks them down. He uses statistics, historical perspective and data in an unbalanced way that weaken the usefulness of his conclusions. For those looking for a serious discussion as to the costs of inequality this is not your book, sorry.
This is a very subjective piece that attacks Capitalism and Republicans and generally exonerates the left.There is plenty of blame to go around. The author starts with his conclusion and justifies it with selected facts. I was hoping for an objective piece and this was very disappointing.
The whiney narration emphasized the tone of the book!
there a lot to this book. i like some of it and some of it scary me. that being said this book should be read.
Stiglitz lays out a compelling view of our increasingly unequal society. Causes, implications, and how we might address the problems are discussed with clarity. While this issues from the "liberal" side of the political spectrum - it is one to read if a balanced view of our current political debate is desired.
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