The Politics of America’s Increasing Economic Inequality

Nicholas Lemann recently published a judicious review of several books on inequality in the New Yorker. Along these lines, I wanted to point out two links:

1. My comments on Charles Murray’s recent book. I argue that he has some interesting points but makes two big mistakes:

(a) He focuses on upper-class liberals but ignores upper-class conservatives, thus only telling half the story.

(b) I don’t think that Murray’s advice to “preach what you practice” is so easy. I give the example of Joe Paterno, who led an upright life and preached morality, but that didn’t stop all sorts of immoral things being condoned right under his eyes. The point is that, to be effective, “preaching” requires some effort. Talk is cheap. Actions (even actions as simple as calling the cops) aren’t.

2. Lane Kenworthy’s very thoughtful recent book on progress for the poor. Also, here’s an article that Lane and I wrote on economic and political inequality.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.