Book Review: 'Bourgeois Equality'

Charles Wolf, The Rand Blog, Oct 02, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This review of Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality ends too suddenly, almost in mid-thought, which is a pity. It would have been worth reading Charles Wolf's criticism of the 768 page tome (especially since it won't appear openly on the internet in my lifetime - I remember when young I could consume books voraciously, getting a stack from the used book store or library and setting up in the park or the pub; now, however, it would cost my salary to consume books at that rate. My 'wealth' has increased but access to what I need hasn't).

There are several themes in Bourgeois Eqiuality, of whch I'll mention two: first is the idea that the increase in the absolute wealth of the poor is more significant than the growing gap between between the wealthy and the rest. This is an old ideaa, popularized in an early TED talk, and does not withstand scrutiny - if you can't buy the things that are important (food in Venezuela, security in Syria, an exit visa in Iran) then you are vulnerable, and your recent rise in wealth is a chimera. The second is that wealth is created by ideas, and the ability of all classes to create and implement ideas is the key to prosperity. But this argument is what Nathan Leites termed a “self-sealer” - no matter what the development, good or bad, the idea preceded the implementation.

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