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Post On Inequality: Joseph Stiglitz
Created by John Eipper on 07/01/14 5:20 AM

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On Inequality: Joseph Stiglitz (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA, 07/01/14 5:20 am)

I would like to introduce inequality for discussion as an issue of the present, as opposed to the recent WAIS postings addressing events of the past.

This Joseph Stiglitz essay (New York Times, 27 June) may help to get the conversation started:


JE comments:  In a nutshell, Stiglitz is calling for a new War on Poverty.  Among the interesting points raised above, he mentions Thomas Piketty's seminal book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which has come up on WAIS a few times in recent months (see Henry Levin and others).  Piketty's thesis is that capitalism itself leads to violent extremes in wealth and poverty.  In this light, the four or so decades following WWII, in which income inequality declined in the US, should be viewed as a historical aberration.  Echoing a point raised by WAISer Tor Guimaraes on several occasions, Stiglitz argues that the Cold War and "international competition" inspired the capitalist system to deliver for the majority of its citizens--but this is no longer the case, proving that we learned the wrong lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I hope Rodolfo Neirotti's call will generate some thoughtful responses.

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  • On Inequality (Tor Guimaraes, USA 07/02/14 6:18 AM)
    Rodolfo Neirotti (1 July) asked for a discussion on inequality.  Once upon a time (2 November, 2010), I expressed my fascination regarding humans who "seem to be divided into two groups: left and right wingers; those who care about common people and those who don't. The 'let them eat cake' group after many decades seems to be winning. European aristocracy did it to the Indians, to the Africans, etc. Their American descendants started a magnificent experiment in democracy but concurrently they did it to the Native Americans and to the African-American slaves, among other peoples. Nevertheless, democracy, justice, and freedom increasingly prevailed. The American middle class drove humanity to the highest standard of living ever accomplished, but now the other side is winning and the American standard of living is coming down dramatically in the last several years. Democracy is eroding, jobless poor people are appearing everywhere, our education system is falling apart, our elected leaders have mostly been bought out by private interests, etc. I think Robert Whealey is right in saying (31 October), 'The real problem today is that corporations and finance capitalism are growing faster than democracy. Democracy and self-employed merchant and professional classes grew together from 1789 to about 1914. They recovered in 1945 from World War II setbacks. American democracy even grew to about 1969-1979. Since then democracy is clearly in trouble and plutocracy and closet fascist tendencies clearly are on the rise.'"

    JE comments: Have things improved since 2010? At least they have in my neighborhood, with both employment and housing prices on the rise.  These are two good yardsticks for the well-being of the middle class.

    Here is Tor Guimaraes's original post from 2010.  November 2nd of that year was election day in the United States.  Can anybody recall one significant outcome of the '10 midterm elections?  I didn't think so:



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