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The Great Divergence: America's Growing…

The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We… (2012)

by Timothy Noah

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This book began life as a series of articles for Slate, the online magazine. The author carefully explains the “Great Convergence”, a period when income inequality was declining in the US, then goes on to explore the causes, the implications, and the possible cures of the “Great Divergence”, which is our current era of growing income inequality.

Mr. Noah is a balanced reporter, careful to give all relevant sides to a debatable question. Nonetheless, he clearly states that he believes that excessive income inequality ultimately is bad for any society, especially a democratic one. Particularly useful is the section where he discusses theories about why inequality might be useful or the Great Divergence a temporary phenomenon. His list of proposed fixes (soak the rich, help unions, etc.) are mostly not feasible given our current political state. I would also like to have seen more effort or originality in proposing solutions that better address globalization and technology. Nonetheless, this is an important and valuable book. ( )
1 vote barlow304 | Jun 20, 2014 |
another is the litany of books about where we are now as a country that is not particularly comforting! ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
I found this book most interesting for Noah's discussions of economic history to put contemporary issues in context. Most impressive is the argument he presents about the direct correlation between the rise of strong labor unions and the growth of the middle class, and the obvious relationship between the decline of labor unions and the shrinking of the middle class. ( )
1 vote Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
This is a great overview of income disparity in the United States. Noah covers the subject well, including talking about income in the context of racial minorities' and women's rights. The chapters are all relatively short, conversational but never superficial or argumentative in tone, and highly critical of a system that is undeniably rigged to help those that need it the least. I especially liked that he included the counterarguments that conservatives often put forth, followed by a summary of how to debate those points, very useful.

However, when I read books like this (and I think this must happen on the right as well), I can't help shake that "preaching to the choir" feeling. I plan to, but I have not read Nickel and Dimed, and I don't really need to read it to agree with Noah that this is a serious issue that we ignore at our own peril. (And, we can read all the books we want about this, but actual action ultimately is up to the reader, of course.) I'd like to see a book about how to convince conservatives about this.

I guess this is not really a fault of Noah or his book, but I suppose I am addressing the left as a whole. My question is: how do we get people to actually listen. OWS has done this to a degree, but I've yet to see any actual change in government as of yet. Well, I won't go off on this tangent here for now, but I'd be happy to do so in any comments people have. Great book overall. Read it and leave it somewhere for someone else to read when you're done. ( )
1 vote MichaelDC | Apr 3, 2013 |
Things I learned: FDR proposed that “no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000.” Horatio Alger became a writer after being forced out of the pulpit for molesting a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old (both boys). Things I didn’t: corporate compensation is out of control (“[In the hiring of top executives,] the formalities of labor market research may be observed at the outset, but only in the same way the Geneva Conventions were observed at Abu Ghraib.”); immigration is not to blame for most of the growing inequality, nor is low-wage foreign competition; the decline of unions and the rise of corporate influence on politics have done much more to increase inequality; if you want to decrease inequality, vote for a Democrat. ( )
2 vote rivkat | Oct 2, 2012 |
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During the past thirty-three years the difference in America between being rich and being middle class became much more pronounced. (Introduction)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 160819633X, Hardcover)


For the past three decades, America has steadily become a nation of haves and have-nots. Our incomes are increasingly drastically unequal: the top 1% of Americans collect almost 20% of the nation’s income—more than double their share in 1973. We have less equality of income than Venezuela, Kenya, or Yemen.

What economics Nobelist Paul Krugman terms "the Great Divergence" has until now been treated as little more than a talking point, a club to be wielded in ideological battles. But it may be the most important change in this country during our lifetimes—a sharp, fundamental shift in the character of American society, and not at all for the better.

The income gap has been blamed on everything from computers to immigration, but its causes and consequences call for a patient, non-partisan exploration. In The Great Divergence, Timothy Noah delivers this urgently needed inquiry, ignoring political rhetoric and drawing on the best work of contemporary researchers to peer beyond conventional wisdom. Noah explains not only how "the Great Divergence" has come about, but why it threatens American democracy—and most important, how we can begin to reverse it.

The Great Divergence is poised to be one of the most talked-about books of 2012, a jump-start to the national conversation about what kind of society we aspire to be in the 21st century: a land of equality, or a city on a hill—with a slum at the bottom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:07 -0400)

The income gap in America has been blamed on everything from computers to immigration, but its causes and consequences call for a patient, non-partisan exploration. Noah explains not only how this "Great Divergence" has come about, but why it threatens American democracy--and most important, how we can begin to reverse it.… (more)

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