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Start We Recommend: The Haves and the Have-nots
14 February 2014

We Recommend: The Haves and the Have-nots

Estimated reading time Time 2 to read

The Haves and the Have-nots: A brief and idiosyncratic history of global inequality, by Branko Milanovic.

  • “Over 70% of people with the highest incomes are in the rich countries of the Western world”.
  • 20% of the world’s wealth is created by 1.75% of the population: the richest”.
  • “The ratio between the lowest and highest level of the pyramid is 200:1”.
  • “The possibility that a migrant’s situation will improve is tripled when he leaves his country”.

The figures are only one facet of an issue affecting us all: income inequality. How do you approach analyzing this without being overwhelmed by the numbers? In this book, the World Bank economist, Branko Milanovic, presents his perspective on the phenomenon of income inequality: statistics, data, analysis, comparisons and also curious approaches with personal stories that illustrate some of the facets of this unequal reality.

This professor of Serbian origin from the University of Maryland dares to ask who can be considered the richest man in history, in what neighborhood of Paris would you have lived seven centuries ago based on your current income, or what social status Anna Karenina would have had if she were alive today.

Is it possible to condense the portrait of global inequality and its history in less than 300 pages? Branko Milanovic does it through three essays on the three levels of inequality that exist in the world: between members of the same community; between countries and global inequality: the sum of the above.

According to the numbers that the author has compiled, where you are born and your parents’ income are the factors that determine 60% of your income variability. That is, the proportion borne by personal effort is minimal. How do you progress then? Is there even any chance of doing so? The numbers force you in this case to try to solve a very complex equation: that of global inequality, which results in social problems such as political instability, mass migration and ethical dilemmas. Even Branko Milanovic dares to ask whether the unequal distribution of wealth is the real root of the economic turmoil.

No doubt there are many challenges ahead in this unequal context presented and skillfully dissected by Professor Milanovic. To begin with, increasing wealth in Africa, China peacefully integrating and bringing Latin America “to the real world”. Will we be able to build a more equal society? As the author of this book points out, China and India are the strongest candidates to break this “imbalance”.

By Dory Gascueña for OpenMind


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