The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future

W. W. Norton & Company
39
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A forceful argument against America's vicious circle of growing inequality by the Nobel Prize–winning economist. America currently has the most inequality, and the least equality of opportunity, among the advanced countries. While market forces play a role in this stark picture, politics has shaped those market forces. In this best-selling book, Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz exposes the efforts of well-heeled interests to compound their wealth in ways that have stifled true, dynamic capitalism. Along the way he examines the effect of inequality on our economy, our democracy, and our system of justice. Stiglitz explains how inequality affects and is affected by every aspect of national policy, and with characteristic insight he offers a vision for a more just and prosperous future, supported by a concrete program to achieve that vision.
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An incisive look at the global economic crisis, our flawed response, and the implications for the world’s future prosperity. The Great Recession, as it has come to be called, has impacted more people worldwide than any crisis since the Great Depression. Flawed government policy and unscrupulous personal and corporate behavior in the United States created the current financial meltdown, which was exported across the globe with devastating consequences. The crisis has sparked an essential debate about America’s economic missteps, the soundness of this country’s economy, and even the appropriate shape of a capitalist system.

Few are more qualified to comment during this turbulent time than Joseph E. Stiglitz. Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, Stiglitz is “an insanely great economist, in ways you can’t really appreciate unless you’re deep into the field” (Paul Krugman, New York Times). In Freefall, Stiglitz traces the origins of the Great Recession, eschewing easy answers and demolishing the contention that America needs more billion-dollar bailouts and free passes to those “too big to fail,” while also outlining the alternatives and revealing that even now there are choices ahead that can make a difference. The system is broken, and we can only fix it by examining the underlying theories that have led us into this new “bubble capitalism.”

Ranging across a host of topics that bear on the crisis, Stiglitz argues convincingly for a restoration of the balance between government and markets. America as a nation faces huge challenges—in health care, energy, the environment, education, and manufacturing—and Stiglitz penetratingly addresses each in light of the newly emerging global economic order. An ongoing war of ideas over the most effective type of capitalist system, as well as a rebalancing of global economic power, is shaping that order. The battle may finally give the lie to theories of a “rational” market or to the view that America’s global economic dominance is inevitable and unassailable.

For anyone watching with indignation while a reckless Wall Street destroyed homes, educations, and jobs; while the government took half-steps hoping for a “just-enough” recovery; and while bankers fell all over themselves claiming not to have seen what was coming, then sought government bailouts while resisting regulation that would make future crises less likely, Freefall offers a clear accounting of why so many Americans feel disillusioned today and how we can realize a prosperous economy and a moral society for the future.
A Nobel prize winner challenges us to throw off the free market fundamentalists and reclaim our economy.

We all have the sense that the American economy—and its government—tilts toward big business, but as Joseph E. Stiglitz explains in his new book, People, Power, and Profits, the situation is dire. A few corporations have come to dominate entire sectors of the economy, contributing to skyrocketing inequality and slow growth. This is how the financial industry has managed to write its own regulations, tech companies have accumulated reams of personal data with little oversight, and our government has negotiated trade deals that fail to represent the best interests of workers. Too many have made their wealth through exploitation of others rather than through wealth creation. If something isn’t done, new technologies may make matters worse, increasing inequality and unemployment.

Stiglitz identifies the true sources of wealth and of increases in standards of living, based on learning, advances in science and technology, and the rule of law. He shows that the assault on the judiciary, universities, and the media undermines the very institutions that have long been the foundation of America’s economic might and its democracy.

Helpless though we may feel today, we are far from powerless. In fact, the economic solutions are often quite clear. We need to exploit the benefits of markets while taming their excesses, making sure that markets work for us—the U.S. citizens—and not the other way around. If enough citizens rally behind the agenda for change outlined in this book, it may not be too late to create a progressive capitalism that will recreate a shared prosperity. Stiglitz shows how a middle-class life can once again be attainable by all.

An authoritative account of the predictable dangers of free market fundamentalism and the foundations of progressive capitalism, People, Power, and Profits shows us an America in crisis, but also lights a path through this challenging time.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Jun 11, 2012
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Pages
560
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ISBN
9780393089066
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Development / Economic Development
Business & Economics / Economic Conditions
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In The Globalization of Inequality, distinguished economist and policymaker François Bourguignon examines the complex and paradoxical links between a vibrant world economy that has raised the living standard of over half a billion people in emerging nations such as China, India, and Brazil, and the exponentially increasing inequality within countries. Exploring globalization's role in the evolution of inequality, Bourguignon takes an original and truly international approach to the decrease in inequality between nations, the increase in inequality within nations, and the policies that might moderate inequality’s negative effects.

Demonstrating that in a globalized world it becomes harder to separate out the factors leading to domestic or international inequality, Bourguignon examines each trend through a variety of sources, and looks at how these inequalities sometimes balance each other out or reinforce one another. Factoring in the most recent economic crisis, Bourguignon investigates why inequality in some countries has dropped back to levels that have not existed for several decades, and he asks if these should be considered in the context of globalization or if they are in fact specific to individual nations. Ultimately, Bourguignon argues that it will be up to countries in the developed and developing world to implement better policies, even though globalization limits the scope for some potential redistributive instruments.

An informed and original contribution to the current debates about inequality, this book will be essential reading for anyone who is interested in the future of the world economy.

It’s time to rewrite the rules—to curb the runaway flow of wealth to the top one percent, to restore security and opportunity for the middle class, and to foster stronger growth rooted in broadly shared prosperity.

Inequality is a choice.

The United States bills itself as the land of opportunity, a place where anyone can achieve success and a better life through hard work and determination. But the facts tell a different story—the U.S. today lags behind most other developed nations in measures of inequality and economic mobility. For decades, wages have stagnated for the majority of workers while economic gains have disproportionately gone to the top one percent. Education, housing, and health care—essential ingredients for individual success—are growing ever more expensive. Deeply rooted structural discrimination continues to hold down women and people of color, and more than one-fifth of all American children now live in poverty. These trends are on track to become even worse in the future.

Some economists claim that today’s bleak conditions are inevitable consequences of market outcomes, globalization, and technological progress. If we want greater equality, they argue, we have to sacrifice growth. This is simply not true. American inequality is the result of misguided structural rules that actually constrict economic growth. We have stripped away worker protections and family support systems, created a tax system that rewards short-term gains over long-term investment, offered a de facto public safety net to too-big-to-fail financial institutions, and chosen monetary and fiscal policies that promote wealth over full employment.

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
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