Timothy Noah’s *The Great Divergence*

The subtitle is America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It.  His policy conclusions are:

1. Soak the rich

2. Fatten government payrolls

3. Import more skilled labor

4. Universalize preschool

5. Impose price controls on colleges and universities

6. Reregulate Wall Street

7. Elect Democratic Presidents

8. Revive the labor movement

This book is well-written and it is a useful survey of left-democrat points of view on the problem.  I do not think most of these recommendations will much limit inequality (though they may have other virtues), but my main wish is that he had offered some additional possible solutions.  #1 on my list is “more innovations which benefit virtually everybody,” which is how the last great equalization (1870-1970 or so) came about.   Parts of his list, such as #3, get at this obliquely but it should be front and center of the entire book.  Let’s debate how we can make that happen.  If there were a new invention as important as the toilet, shareholders would not and could not appropriate most of the gains.  “Deregulate housing” and “deregulate medical care” also deserve a ponder, as does “abolish occupational licensing” and “subsidize basic science.”  That global inequality has fallen radically is understood and recognized but not emphasized.  It is culturally beyond the pale — on the left at least — to write “encourage conversions to Mormonism” but as a recommendation it is right on the mark.  This book needs more which is culturally beyond the pale.  How about “run some of the bad schools with lots of discipline, more like the KIPP academy?”


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