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by Venky


While Globalization has had the benevolent impact of bestowing much needed economic, political and social advantages to the underprivileged class, it brings with it its own set of discontents. The most visible scourge of globalisation has been the increasing in-congruence of both wealth and income – a phenomenon that has birthed the undesirable consequence of inequality. One of the pioneers in this domain of Economics has been Branko Milanovic.

In this essential book, Milanovic employs the powerful mechanism of the Kuznets Curve or the Kuznets Waves as he himself prefers to term it (with his own innovative modifications) to lay out the cause and consequences of Inequality. Not restricting himself to the study of inequalities within nations, – which of course have a substantial and significant bearing on the overall Global Inequality – Milanovic using a wide body of research dissects both the usual as well as unusual suspects that are primarily responsible for a rise in inequality.

Concentration of capital in the hands of a chosen few; income from capital as well as labour accruing to the same individuals; assortative mating (the act of two highly qualified and top income grossers deciding to bind themselves into the bond of matrimony) and the political influence that is the prerogative of the top “1 percenters” who hold within their possession a cumulative wealth of close to US$3 trillion are all factors which inexorably lead to a wide swathe when it comes to the distribution of income as well as the dispersal of wealth.

The most captivating feature of the book lies in its simplicity. Abhorring esoteric equations that in addition to making the reader feel inferior and causing a headache, also give a perception of the condescension of the author, Milanovic prefers to use a narrative that is easy to grasp, and a style that is free flowing. Jargon mongering is resorted to only when absolutely necessary and even there a more comprehensible explanation immediately follows. Graphs and tables supplement the text admirably.

However, it is surprising to see the omission of the role which India as an emerging economy could play in reducing inequalities of both income and wealth. While China has a fair share of coverage as is wont to be in any book dealing with Economics on account of its superstar status as an economic super power, trends such as an increasing spate of corruption, non existent human rights, complete disdain to ecological imbalance and rumblings of a return to democracy all combine to pose a real threat to China’s economic future even though prospects of a China imploding from within are just far fetched theories. India’s burgeoning youth population, Information Technology capabilities, intellectual capital and the advantage of an English speaking citizenry all bode well for a strong and significant future. Maybe in the coming editions of this book, Milanovic would devote more space to the Economic prospects of India and the country’s role in stopping the relentless march of inequality. Notwithstanding this fact, Milanovic’s work is a superb expression of his craft.

“Global Inequality” – A Great Leveler of a work that warrants compulsory reading by everyone wanting to understand the current gap between the haves, have-mores and the have-nots!

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