Books – Inequality? The problem remains poverty

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It is our moral duty to eradicate poverty. Economic equality is not necessarily a relevant moral objective in its own right.

‘Economic equality is one of today’s most overestimated ideas, and Harry G. Frankfurt’s highly compelling book explains exactly why”. Picking up the little black book that has created a storm in Washington, the first thing one should do is read the back cover. Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University and author of the blog Marginal Revolution, explains in three lines why everyone should read On Inequality by Harry G. Frankfurt, emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton University. The reason is self-evident: humanity is not destined to eliminate inequality, but rather poverty. And these constitute two very different concepts.

In his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty revolutionised global thought on the management of inequality, both on an academic and political level. He did so not only in a Europe devastated by the worst economic crisis since the Second World War but also in the United States, where the collapse of the real estate market (beginning in 2006) had left deep and indelible wounds. Piketty’s book is a body of work based on decades of research condensed into a tome of almost 700 pages. By contrast, Frankfurt’s book is 89 pages, excluding notes. Nevertheless, in a volume that is so intentionally brief, the philosopher manages to explain why speaking about inequality is not only wrong but also dangerous, and not just in the short term due to the US presidential elections. 

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