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Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis

Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis [Kindle Edition]

James K. Galbraith
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an astoundingly broad, illuminating, and detailed examination of the global rise in income inequality between 1980 to the dawn of the financial crisis in 2008...Galbraith boldly brings the problem of radical inequality from the margins to the centre of economic analysis. Imani Perry, London School of Economics A truly pathbreaking work of scholarship. Barry Eichengreen A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand our political and economic era. Joseph E. Stiglitz James K. Galbraiths Marco Passarella, Economic Issues


As Wall Street rose to dominate the U.S. economy, income and pay inequalities in America came to dance to the tune of the credit cycle. As the reach of financial markets extended across the globe, interest rates, debt, and debt crises became the dominant forces driving the rise of economic inequality almost everywhere. Thus the "super-bubble" that investor George Soros identified in rich countries for the two decades after 1980 was a super-crisis for the 99 percent-not just in the U.S. but the entire world.
Inequality and Instability demonstrates that finance is the driveshaft that links inequality to economic instability. The book challenges those, mainly on the right, who see mysterious forces of technology behind rising inequality. And it also challenges those, mainly on the left, who have placed the blame narrowly on trade and outsourcing. Inequality and Instability presents straightforward evidence that the rise of inequality mirrors the stock market in the U.S. and the rise of finance and of free-market policies elsewhere. Starting from the premise that fresh argument requires fresh evidence, James K. Galbraith brings new data to bear as never before, presenting information built up over fifteen years in easily understood charts and tables. By measuring inequality at the right geographic scale, Galbraith shows that more equal societies systematically enjoy lower unemployment. He shows how this plays out inside Europe, between Europe and the United States, and in modern China. He explains that the dramatic rise of inequality in the U.S. in the 1990s reflected a finance-driven technology boom that concentrated incomes in just five counties, very remote from the experience of most Americans-which helps explain why the political reaction was so slow to come. That the reaction is occurring now, however, is beyond doubt. In the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, inequality has become, in America and the world over, the central issue.
A landmark work of research and original insight, Inequality and Instability will change forever the way we understand this pivotal topic.


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4.0 von 5 Sternen wichtig, nur leider schlecht zu lesende Graphiken 11. April 2014
Von Mackensen
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Ein wichtiger und richtungsweisender Ansatz, der gerade in der EURO-Krise heftig zum Nachdenken anregt. Das Buch erfordert allerdings etwas statistisches und mathematischer Verständnis, es liest sich nicht "einfach so weg". Aber die Mühe wird reich belohnt! Leider sind die Graphiken aus Kostengründen vom Verlag in b/w gesetzt und damit kaum lesbar.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.8 von 5 Sternen  12 Rezensionen
68 von 69 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Revolutionary 19. April 2012
Von Hans G. Despain - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
James Galbraith deserves the Nobel Prize in Economics for his several decades of work on economic inequality. _Inequality and Instability_ attempts to summarize, synthesis, and further develop this phenomenal research. Galbraith has redefined the study of economic inequality; for Galbraith inequality is not merely an ethical issue, but inequality radically determines a society's level of unemployment, growth and development, and frequency and depth of economic crises.

Galbraith's research argues and convincingly demonstrates inequality largely determines (1) the relative stability of a macroeconomy, (2) market economies generate inequality, and inequality destabilizes the economic system, i.e. generates economic crises, (3) the primary industry responsible for inequality is finance and the institutional structure of finance within a society, this implies (4) technology is not the primary cause of inequality, nor even a significant cause of inequality at a national level, and (5) outsourcing and international competition has not been a significant cause of inequality, instead (6) macroeconomic policy (both monetary and fiscal, but more accurately especially monetary policy, but also fiscal policy determine the degree of inequality and inequality determines the level of stability or instability of an economy) and political ideology, i.e. political economy radically determine the degree of inequality.

Now for the less happy analysis.

In a three sentence evaluation of the book, Nobel Prize winner economist Joseph E. Stiglitz writes: "In _Inequality and Instability_, James K. Galbraith examines one the most pressing issues of our time. In this accessible and far-reaching volume he investigates not only the depth and breadth of inequality in Europe, America, and elsewhere, but also its implications for politics and society. It is a must-read, for anyone who wishes to understand our political and economic era."

I fully endorse the first and third sentences. Indeed, I fully endorse the second sentence, save one single word, i.e. accessible. If you are a Ph.D., or a Ph.D. student, this book is accessible. Moreover, if you have a mentor or you are in an upper division undergraduate college economic course with an instructor to explain regression equations, Theil statistics, Gini coefficients, etc. this book will be accessible. However, if you are unacquainted with these phenomena, this book will be less then accessible.

Nonetheless, this book is too important to be ignored by a popular audience, every engaged citizen should absorb the basic argument. I have a suggestion. First, pick up a copy of Galbraith's _Predator State_ (2006), and read chapter 7, titled "What the Rise of Inequality is Really About", as a preface to _Inequality and Instability_. Second, read an abridged version of _Inequality and Instability_, before attempting to tackle the entire book. My suggested abridged version (for an U.S. audience) is, chapter 1, pp. 47-50 of chapter 3, (and possibly pp. 50-62 of chapter 3), then chapters 6, 7 and 13.

What will be learned can be summarized as follows:

(1) Inequality generates unemployment, and unemployment generates inequality, this I dub `Galbraith's Law.' Unemployment was not much of a problem post-Reagan (post-1984-5), but inequality has been on the rise. What Galbraith's Law suggests is if inequality is on the rise, unemployment is to follow. This is what happened in 2007-8, inequality destabilized the economy, a crisis manifested, and generated unemployment. Since the Great Recession of 2007-8, the Obama administration has failed to address inequality; consequently Galbraith's Law suggests the "Jobless recovery" will continue until inequality is reduced.

(2) The financial industry, and its regulation or lack of regulation, is the primary determinant of the degree of inequality in an economy.

(3) The level of inequality radically determines the stability (low inequality) and instability (high inequality) of a macroeconomy.

(4) Economic policy can reduce or increase inequality in a society. Because of the importance of finance, monetary policy and interest rate changes can be argued to be the most important policy as both culprit and mediator of inequality.

(5) Although free-market labor market and wage policy does not necessarily cause severe income inequality, progressive labor market and wage policy is important policy to combat income inequality caused by the functioning (and dysfunction) of the financial industry which generates income inequality.
11 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Overly Technical - 28. Mai 2012
Von Loyd E. Eskildson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Galbraith's book is chock full of esoteric equations and explanations built up over 15-some years, definitely not light reading, undoubtedly intended for serious econometricians only. It presents evidence that the rise of inequality mirrors the stock market in the U.S. and the rise of finance and free-market policies elsewhere. The data purport to show that more equal societies enjoy lower unemployment.

Galbraith has concluded from his research that waht has driven rising inequalities of income in the U.S. has been rising stock prices, asset valuations, and income drawn from stock option realizations, as well as wages and salaries paid in sectors financed by new equity. (Think Instagram, acquired after about seven years' of their work for $1 billion, and with only 27 employees.) These incomes at the very top were highly concentrated into 15 counties, and five in particular - the NYC area, three associated with Silicon Valley, and King Co. Washington. States with higher levels of inequality tend to have lower voter turnout rates - consistent with the idea the wealthier voters have a strong interest in restricting access to voting by poor people. (Yet, none of Galbraith's examples of the highest income counties - California, New York, and Washington, do so.)

Within Europe, Galbraith reports that countries with less pay inequality systematically enjoy less unemployment, other things being equal. He also asserts that Europe overall has more income inequality than the U.S., something that does not fit with my understanding that the U.S. and China lead in this dimension. Continuing, Galbraith tells us there is strong evidence that inequality rose through most of the world during globalization, and that recent winning sectors in the U.S. have not generated many jobs - (eg. Facebook's initial $100 billion valuation is linked to only 3,200 jobs).
6 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Very interesting 13. August 2012
Von George Hariton - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Research on income inequality has been plagued by a lack of good data on inequality within countries. The World Bank put together a data base in 1996 (updated and extended since), based on surveys in various countries, but the data are sparse and seldom really comparable. The University of Texas Inequality Program (UTIP) has built a new data base which they hope is better. This book is a description of that new data base (the first third of the book). As well it describes uses of the data base to explore voting patterns and other political impacts of inequality (most of the second third of the book) and some economic consequences of inequality (the rest of the book).

UTIP uses inequality in manufacturing wages (i.e. pay rates in the manufacturing sector) as a proxy for income inequality. If the proxy is good enough, that vastly improves the quality of the data, and so the range of questions that can be addressed. Galbraith spends Chapters 2 and 3 arguing that the proxy is good enough -- that manufacturing wage disparities do reflect income disparities closely enough for his analyses.

The rest of the book depends on whether the reader accepts these assertions or not. The problem, of course, is that the services sector is changing very rapidly, and any inferences from manufacturing to services may quickly be out of date. In any case, even the numerical analyses that Galbraith presents are not very convincing. For example, he uses the UTIP data to replicate the World Bank data. While the correspondence is good, it is not very good. (He fits a linear regression and gets R-square statistics of about 0.6, i.e. the UTIP data explains about 60% of the World Bank data.) While that is good enough to show that the two measures are related, I don't think that it is good enough for the applications later in the book. But then Galbraith says that the World Bank data are flawed anyway, so the point of the comparison is lost on me.

Anyway, if one accepts use of UTIP data, a few interesting conclusions followe. For example, while individual European countries show less income inequality than the U.S., Europe taken as a single entity shows more income inequality. Given Europe's higher unemployment rates (at least until recently) that suggests that greater income inequality correlates with greater unemployment, not the reverse. (I note that Galbraith isn't always careful to distinguish correlation and causation. His results fall far short of showing that inequality causes unemployment -- the causation could run the other way, or a third factor might be at play).

Another very interesting result is that global factors, including international financial credit, securities markets and so on, account for almost all the changes in inequality. Economic institutions also atre important. But that leaves very little scope for political interventions or indeed for a government role. Or at least that's how I read the last third of the book.

A comment on the book's accessibility: I found the book very readable. Yes, there are a few equations, but the reader can skip over those with no loss. Yes, there are some regression analyses, but their results are described in words in the text, so they can be skipped too. Galbraith is a good writer, and if you skip the tables, what he has to say flows nicely.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A must for decision makers 4. Mai 2013
Von Luis Maldonado Lince - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Decision makers , policy designers and strategists of all sorts should read James Galbraiths book. Reproducing the pre-crisis conditions, via faulty policies and strategies, will only lead the world economy to the begining of the same tragis vicious circle. A must read without doubt.
2 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Rigorous and Quantative 6. September 2012
Von WhoKnew - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Galbraith's work here builds on much of his previous. It is a carefully argued and fully grounded quantative analysis that does what the title advertises. This is not a work for the general reader. Galbraith spends considerable time explaining the data sources he uses and the analyses he carries out. His general conclusions include: 1) recognition of inequality's rise in particular connection with financial bubbles, and 2) upward mobility is more characteristic of social democracies. Note: Reading Inequality and Instablility on a Kindle makes it difficult to see the many graphs and tables that illustrate Galbraith's presentation.
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