The Problem of “Inequality”

The lead-up to and aftermath of the Great Recession spawned a great deal of research on economic inequality. Some of this work (contributions by Bartels, Wilkinson and Pickett, Alesina and Glaeser) is excellent and well worth reading. Among even the best contributions to the discourse, however, the same dull, liberal conclusion prevails: the solution to rising inequality is a set of more effective redistributive measures. Such a solution draws a slew of predictably derisive comments from cranky leftists like me, who consider social democratic reforms inadequate. Capitalism with a human face, we diligently repeat, is still capitalism.

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How to Liberalize Your Economy

Here you are, the leader of an underdeveloped country, plodding along your merry way, when all of a sudden you’re hit by hyperinflation, shortages, or some other Very Bad Thing. Now all of a sudden your economy is reeling, your usual prescriptions aren’t taking effect, and you’re not sure what to do. Out of desperation, you ask an esteemed economist from the developed world for advice. Alternatively, the esteemed economist might barge through your country on a very large parade float and yell his advice at you through a megaphone. In any case, he tells you that you just need to liberalize your economy. If you open your country to the capricious whims of global capitalism, you will be rewarded most handily with a steady rate of absolute growth. These words puzzle you. “Liberalize my economy?” you ask, your mouth agape. “But how?” The esteemed economist patiently lays out the process you must follow. Continue reading

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The Dilemma of the Petty Bourgeois Radical: A Disclaimer

What does it mean to be a “radical” in the United States? Does it mean anything? Many self-styled “radicals” in the US are petty bourgeois, myself included. How should the petty bourgeois radical approach revolutionary writing? Should they approach it at all? How can the petty bourgeois radical (or PBR for short) be in a position to critique capitalism when they profit from the exploitation of third world labor; when they own Apple laptops and use Facebook; when, just by existing, they tacitly support countless amoral, multi-national corporations? Can PBRs call themselves radicals in any true sense? Can they advocate any anti-capitalist agenda without collapsing into self-parody?

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