I’ve been reading Branko Milanovic’s new book Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. I’ll be reviewing it for the journal Democracy, not for here.
It adds to a recent literature on inequality, of which Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is the best known, but also includes some excellent books with a lower public profile – Anthony Atkinson’s Inequality and François Bourguignon’s The Globalization of Inequality. I liked the Atkinson book especially for its down-to-earth list of supremely practical policy proposals to reduce inequality. About the Milanovic book I’ll just say for the moment that it will be another must-read on the subject, and includes a super-clear overview of the global income inequality data as well as a persuasive analysis of the forces driving inequality trends (far more persuasive than Piketty’s determinism).
Capital in the Twenty-First Century Inequality The Globalization of Inequality
Why now? The answer to that is surely events; a degree of inequality tolerable when the economy was booming is intolerable now there is less growth. Does it matter? Just read Martin Wolf’s sobering column today (£) (The Economic Losers Are in Revolt Against the Elites) to appreciate why it might. These are fragile times, whether you look at migration, climate change, global epidemics, demography, populism – exactly the circumstances when you would want people to be pulling together rather than diverging into separate worlds (Davos-land, middle England or America, refugee camps) due to such big differences in income. Milanovic’s book lends weight to Wolf’s pessimism: “If western elites despise the concerns of the many, the latter will withdraw their consent for the elite’s projects. In the US, elites of the right, having sown the wind, are reaping the whirlwind. But this has happened only because elites of the left have lost the allegiance of swaths of the native middle classes.”