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Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritanceby Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly
Synopses & Reviews
Why most of the wealth that is earned comes in the form of a "free lunch" — and why, logically, we must give most of it back to society as a result.
Warren Buffett is worth nearly $50 billion. Does he "deserve" all this money? Buffett himself will tell you that "society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I've earned."
Unjust Deserts offers an entirely new approach to the wealth question. In a lively synthesis of modern economic, technological, and cultural research, Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly demonstrate that up to 90 percent (and perhaps more) of current economic output derives not from individual ingenuity, effort, or investment but from our collective inheritance of scientific and technological knowledge: an inheritance we all receive as a "free lunch."
Alperovitz and Daly then pursue the implications of this research, persuasively arguing that there is no reason any one person should be entitled to that inheritance. Recognizing the true dimensions of our unearned inheritance leads inevitably to a new and powerful moral case for wealth redistribution — and to a series of practical policies to achieve it in an era when the disparities have become untenable.
"Riddled with references to economists John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith, this book reads more like an academic treatise than an appeal aimed at the general public. Alperovitz (America Beyond Capitalism) and Daly (God and the Welfare State) make the provocative argument that if today's worker is more productive and his methods are more extensive, it's due to the accumulation of hundreds of years of work done by previous generations. Modern engineers, for example, are only more productive because they build on the design problems solved during the past century. Since a society shares a history, the authors contend, we should all reap the benefits of this progress and the wealth accumulated by it; the reality, of course, is a grave disparity in wealth and resources. Alperovitz has written several works used as textbooks in economics courses (Atomic Diplomacy), but this work lacks the readability necessary for mainstream audiences-the very audience that the author should have appealed to." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Their timely, deftly argued book redefines our vision of the common good." Jacob S. Hacker, Professor of Political Science, Yale University
"Unjust Deserts reveals the untold story of wealth creation in our time." Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, and Chuck Collins, director of Inequality and the Common Good
"The viewpoint presented in this important and provocative book should alter the current public discourse on income distribution." Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, 1972
"[D]eeply informed and carefully argued study of the social and historical factors that enter into creative achievement." Noam Chomsky
About the Author
Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. His previous books include The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and America Beyond Capitalism. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Lew Daly is a senior fellow at Demos and the author of God and the Welfare State. He lives in New York City.
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