Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War

Belknap. Oct. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780674264144. $32.95. ECON
Milanovic (Stone Ctr. on Socio-Economic Inequality, City Univ. of New York; Capitalism, Alone) is the former lead economist of the World Bank’s research department. His book’s objective is to trace the evolution—from the French Revolution to the end of the Cold War—of economic viewpoints on inequality, which he says is linked to time and place. To show readers this, the book probes the work of six key figures. François Quesnay, a leading economist in France, where estate owners controlled the land and every person and thing on it, believed that this was an acceptable way of life for all. European economists—Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and others—seemed to accept that the wants and pleasures of landowners and capitalists allowed for, even necessitated, that other people existed to serve their needs. Italian Vilfredo Pareto deduced that it was only natural that the rich became richer, while the lives of those with lower incomes deteriorated. In the latter part of the 20th century, differing opinions regarding the right to wealth emerged with Simon Kuznets and others who popularized the idea that there is a need for a more equitable society.
VERDICT A technical book best suited for readers with strong economic backgrounds, but it may interest general readers as well.
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