How Does Inequality Happen?

Nicholas Lemann in April 23, 2012 New Yorker reviews  6  books in an essay called “Evening the Odds: Is There a Politics of Inequality?

  • The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality and What We Can Do About It?   Timothy Noah
  • Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, Charles Murray
  • Power, Inc., David Rothkopf
  • Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt
  • Benjamin Friedman — in The National Interest, title not given
  • Dylan Ratigan — mention of his views
  • Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin
  • The Tea Party and the Making of American Conservatism, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson
  • Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the Republic, Jay Cost

Though he particularly recommends Cost’s book as “the biggest, meatiest available conservative take on American Politics,”   and a “full-bore, non-caricature critique of liberalism,” and does a skilful job of distilling the essence of the books, he doesn’t draw any conclusions of his own to answer the question, except to agree that inequality as it now stands is a problem, and “if you believe that government is the best instrument with which to address the problem it’s also a morally urgent one.”  I wish he’d been given, or taken, the space necessary to write the kind of long-form essay he is very capable of doing.

To me, personally, the Noah book looks the most interesting.  I am some way through “Ill Fares the Land,” and think Judt a thinker and a moral man of the first order.  As to a good critique of liberalism, I am all for that, but doubt I will dive into a “big, meaty” book right now.  Let me know if you find good notices, or critiques of any of these.

As Lehmann says, we have a  “morally urgent” problem on our hands — which may, if not dealt with adequately,  ratchet very fast — as Greece is showing us– into a political and even police/military problem.