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)!
Like always, Stiglitz is a bit lopsided, but he makes a lot of very valid points. What is really annoying about this audiobook is the narration. Paul Boehmer's voice has the soothing, yet emotionally detached air of a spaceship's articifical intelligence computer, which in some settings might work well, but not in this audiobook which makes a passionate normative appeal for equality.
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!
Well-researched, well-written, well-read. The book covers every important area of the USA that is in the current events, every major problem of the existing democracy, every cause of the problems, and gives many good solutions.
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.
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.
While I support the overall view of the book, I found the absolutes and many examples of stretching the facts disappointing. There are enough facts to make the case for closing the economic gaps that create inequality and you will find those in this book. However, the simple facts must not have dramatic enough for Stiglitz. This book will fan the flames of the far right and give them more reasons to do the same with their own slanted interpretations of facts and partial truths. It certainly will not help them understand and is not likely to move a person in the center to agree. It will simply cause those of a common attitude to dig in deeper thus further preventing us from reaching resolution.
This is one of those rare books that is enjoyable for both individuals who have studied economics and those who have never taken an econ. class. The book is very well written—seamlessly weaving together a variety of facts and findings from various disciplines with current economic conditions at both the international and domestic level in a way that one is led inexorably to agree with Stiglitz's conclusions about the need for more equitable distribution.
This is an important book to understanding the machinations occuring behind the scandals, bailouts, recessions, unemployment and many other factors widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots. The elimination of the middle-class is characterized as the short-sighted goal of the super-rich and the giant corporations.
Very clear enunciation and pleasant tone add to an upbeat performance, which must be difficult considering the breadth of the material and the potentially disheartening information.
The book is so engaging that I would have loved to have listened to this book in one sitting, but it is too thorough and lengthy to accomplish that feat. However, the length of the book should not dissuade anyone from reading it.
Though Stiglitz is not above lashing out at the political right, the financial elite, giant corporations, and military expenditures he provides a depth of facts and examples that support his positions. It is hard to disagree with his position when it is so well illuminated. It will be hard to passively watch the news after reading this book.
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