I just returned from an awesome family vacation in Peru. Although certainly not the highlight of the trip, six plane flights and two lengthy train rides made for a lot of reading. I finished Shattered, the inside look at the Clinton 2016 campaign, then read Locking Up Our Own, an analysis of how black leadership in Washington, DC, helped pave the way to mass incarceration of black Americans, and Toxic Inequality, by Thomas Shapiro, which, of all the books I’ve read on the subject of economic inequality, is one of the very best in terms of insightful analysis.
Each book was excellent, but Toxic Inequality is the most noteworthy. Continue reading
I finally got around to reading Michael Hudson’s Killing the Host. I think it was released over a year ago. Hudson is a professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, which is where some of the most progressive work is being done, particularly in monetary theory.
This book is not especially well written. The editing was downright sloppy, in my opinion.
But it’s written well enough to follow and the content is valuable. Hudson’s central thesis is that economic policy has moved in the exact opposite direction of what economic philosophers of the 19th and early 20th century foresaw. They believed the world would become increasingly egalitarian, as economic and tax policy would favor industrialists and labor. Instead, it has favored rent seekers, particularly those in the finance sector.
Hudson likens the relationship of the finance sector to the economy to that of parasite to host. Eventually, the parasite drains the life out of the host.
For those interested in economic policy, Killing the Host is an important read. There are insights in this book I’ve not seen elsewhere. So, even though it could have been better written, I recommend it.
I’ve been told by friends I should read Shattered, the devastating takedown of the Clinton 2016 campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. I may, but it’s not high on my priority list. That’s not to say it’s uninteresting or poorly written. From all I’ve read, it’s a really good work, and a page turner.
I’m just not sure I should spend hours on gory details that do nothing more than confirm what I already believe.
I did spend the few minutes required to read Matt Taibbi’s review of the book, and am glad I did. Taibbi’s intellect is as keen as any journalist out there. In this case, his takeaways from the book, not about the Clinton campaign, but about the Democratic Party, the Democratic establishment, and American political campaigns, have more long-lasting relevance than Shattered itself. Taibbi: Continue reading
The ramifications of the wealth inequality problem so troubling to Western economists and policy makers is also affecting China. A new research paper by five authors, including Piketty and Saez, reveals that in 1978 the highest earning Chinese 10% took home about 25% of national income before taxes. By 2015, the take of the top 10% had risen to two-fifths of total income. The richest 10% now control about 70% of private wealth in China, up from 40% in 1995. The inequality issue was somewhat mitigated by China’s rapid economic growth. Between 1978 and 2015, the income level of the poorer half of the Chinese population quintupled. During the same time period in the United States, the income level of the bottom half of the population declined by 1%.
Full disclosure: Chuck Collins, the author of Born on Third Base, is a personal friend and a colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies. So, after he gave me a copy at the conclusion of a workshop on economic inequality to which I had been invited only at his urging, it was out of friendship that I cracked it open on the plane ride home the next day.
But that’s not what made me get choked up reading the preface. Out of the thousand odd books I’ve read in my life, I don’t recall that happening before.
Born on Third Base is an important book, and a throughly enjoyable one. Chuck’s perspective is not unique, but it is rare. As the great-grandson of Oscar Mayer, Chuck truly was born on third base. At a young age, he did something remarkable. He gave away his wealth. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his career working against economic injustice. Continue reading