The Cost of Inequality Paperback – 23 Feb 2012
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'A great book - read it!' Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit Level --1
'Compelling... urgent.' --Times Higher Education Supplement
'Seminal.' Neal Lawson, --Guardian Comment
About the Author
Stewart Lansley is a research fellow at the University of Bristol. He is the author of Poor Britain (with Joanna Mack), Rich Britain and a biography of Philip Green. He has written on wealth and poverty for academic and specialist journals as well as the Guardian, Independent and Sunday Times, and has held previous academic posts at the Universities of Reading and Brunel. He lives in London.
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The strength of his book is that it takes a new angle, namely, that inequality stops a free enterprise system from working properly. His target is workability, not morality. He then shows that it isn't new. The same arguments were being made years ago, and it was only when they were heeded that the recovery from previous great depressions began. Lansley doesn't rely on rhetoric, however: he presents plenty of cogently-argued evidence that the same conditions which produced the Great Depression of the 1930s were also visible in the 2000s. What's more, many people saw it and warned what was to come. The politicians put their hands over their ears and refused to listen, like an over-excited child who's been told it's bedtime.
The fact is that if too much wealth is held by the super-rich, they don't do anything productive with it. No one can spend that much on consumables, so they spend it on pushing up the value of van Goghs and on financial speculation. That accumulates even more money, but it doesn't produce anything. The squeeze is on the rest of us. This argument is very similar to that of the Patriotic Millionaires in the USA, who argue that they should be taxed more in order to leave less well-off people more free cash. What creates jobs and new businesses is ordinary people having money to spend. That's what creates demand, and without demand there can be no growth. It remains to be seen whether "quantitative easing" will make any difference, but my hunch is it won't, because the money goes where the money already is, not into demand.
Sounds simple? It is. Everyone should read this book.
Prepare for an even bigger crash. A MUST READ.
I found it interesting to learn about the change in the wage share and the effect this could have on the economy. However I am unconvinced by his views on tightening regulations and rising the minimum wage and remain a believer in low-restricted free markets. I found some of his discussions/ arguments to be to be very one-sided, and found he ignored obvious oppositions to his views. In particular I found Lansley's generalisations of private equity companies and hedge funds to be unfair and misleading. Nonetheless I found it interesting to hear the views of the opposing side of this argument. I was slightly disappointed that there was only one chapter with quite a brief outline of the reforms he would suggest, after such heavy criticism of the current system.
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