The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality

The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality

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by Branko Milanovic

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Who is the richest person in the world, ever? Does where you were born affect how much money you’ll earn over a lifetime? How would we know? Why—beyond the idle curiosity—do these questions even matter? In The Haves and the Have-Nots, Branko Milanovic, one of the world’s leading experts on wealth, poverty, and the gap that separates them…  See more details below


Who is the richest person in the world, ever? Does where you were born affect how much money you’ll earn over a lifetime? How would we know? Why—beyond the idle curiosity—do these questions even matter? In The Haves and the Have-Nots, Branko Milanovic, one of the world’s leading experts on wealth, poverty, and the gap that separates them, explains these and other mysteries of how wealth is unevenly spread throughout our world, now and through time. Milanovic uses history, literature and stories straight out of today’s newspapers, to discuss one of the major divisions in our social lives: between the haves and the have-nots. He reveals just how rich Elizabeth Bennet’s suitor Mr. Darcy really was; how much Anna Karenina gained by falling in love; how wealthy ancient Romans compare to today’s super-rich; where in Kenyan income distribution was Obama’s grandfather; how we should think about Marxism in a modern world; and how location where one is born determines his wealth. He goes beyond mere entertainment to explain why inequality matters, how it damages our economics prospects, and how it can threaten the foundations of the social order that we take for granted.  Bold, engaging, and illuminating, The Haves and the Have-Nots teaches us not only how to think about inequality, but why we should.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

New York Times Book Review
“[A]n eclectic book on inequality…. [Milanovic’s] colorful vignettes…are almost uniformly delightful. No matter where you are on the income ladder, Milanovic’s examination of whether Bill Gates is richer than Nero makes for great cocktail party conversation.”

New York Journal of Books
“[Branko Milanovic] has fun with economics…. Behind the fun are some serious concerns about growing global income inequality…. And underlying the fun facts is a prodigious amount of research: everything from demographic patterns in 13th century Paris to interest rates in ancient Rome.”

Library Journal
“[A]n innovative look at price and consumption differences…. Students, practitioners, and anyone interested in economics and the issue of inequality would enjoy this.”

Booklist, starred review
“Milanovic defies the typical image of an economist by presenting research overlaid with humor, literary insights, and fully imagined portraits of daily life as he examines inequality across time and continents…. Milanovic writes as much like a philosopher as an economist as he ponders the growing trend of inequality in income around the world and answers questions many readers likely ask themselves about their economic prospects.”

Kirkus Reviews
“[A] timely look at the inequality of income and wealth…. Authoritative.”

Simon Johnson, Professor at MIT Sloan and co-author of the national bestseller 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
“A brilliant tour through inequality, writ large and small, across the ages. Economics is often considered as ‘dismal’ and you may not be cheered up by what has been regarded as an acceptable distribution of income in the past (and what may be coming to our future). But The Haves and the Have-Nots is far from being a dismal book – it is entertaining, draws you in, and makes you think; this is the right way to draw attention to the substantive issues. Enrollments in economics courses would rise sharply if more writers followed Branko Milanovic’s lead.”
Moisés Naím, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers,
and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
“This is one of the most entertaining and original books you can read on a hot-button subject that will increasingly dominate the conversations in homes and government offices around the world. Economic inequality has always been part of the human experience and Branko Milanovic masterfully explains why it is still with us and why politicians, policy makers and the public are so often allured by policies that deepen inequality instead of reducing it. A delightful read!”
James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too
“Charming, erudite, curious and deeply informed about every aspect of economic inequality. Branko Milanovic takes us on a tour from Austen to Tolstoy, from ancient Rome to modern Brazil via the late Soviet Union. He explores almost all the ways of thinking about inequality that there are. And he makes it seem easy, which it definitely is not.”
Angus Deaton, Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2009 President of the American
Economic Association, author of The Analysis of Household Surveys: A Microeconometric Approach to Development Policy
“Where do you rank in the all-time world distribution of income? How about Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy? Or Anna Karenina? Was Octavian Augustus richer than Bill Gates? Why might China fall apart, like the USSR and Yugoslavia? Why should we care about differences in income and wealth? In this book of many delights, Branko Milanovic, who has spent 25 years studying global inequality, provides us with a veritable Arabian Nights of stories about inequality, drawing from history, literature, and everywhere in the world. A pleasure to read, and an eye-opener for haves and for have-nots alike.”
Thomas Pogge, Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Yale University, author of World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms
“Learn about the serious subject of economic inequality while you have plenty of fun traveling around the globe and far back in time! Through fascinating stories and wonderful illustrations, Branko Milanovic explains income and wealth inequality – their concepts, measurement, evolution, and role in human life – without compromising precision or balance. This is a delightful book, as commendable for vacations as for the classroom.”
The Washington Independent Review of Books
“[A] thoughtful new book that comes to grips with a much weightier topic, involving one of the biggest issues of our time: the inequality of incomes…. Milanovic’s brief and idiosyncratic little book provides quite an education.”
The Spectator (London)
“If you have the slightest interest in politics and macro-economics, you should be [in possession of this book].”
Time Out for Entertainment (Denver)
“Talk about a timely book. The Haves and the Have-Nots will get your blood boiling. World bank economist and expert on global inequality Branko Milanovic takes us back to a time when the world was divided in the very rich few and impoverished masses. He then jolts us to the present, where everyone in society is unquestionably better off, yet the income of the top 1.75% of the world’s population exceeds that of the bottom 77%.... No socialist manifesto, this is instead a thought-provoking work of how we got where we are and where this imbalance will take us.”
Foreign Affairs
“This delightful and quirky book explains in layman’s terms the evolution of income inequality over the years, within countries and between countries…. A growing volume of data on income distribution within countries and new data on purchasing power comparisons between countries have permitted the author…to make quantitative generalizations that could once only be guessed at.”
“[The Haves and the Have-Nots] will keep both specialists and nonspecialists engaged and learning. This is a wonderful book for anyone to read…. Highly recommended.”

Edward Chancellor, Financial Times
“The question of bad inequality is addressed at length in [this] entertaining new book by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic.”

Ethics & International Affairs “[A] compact and lively examination of the nature, history, and causes of inequality.”

Library Journal
Milanovic, lead economist at the World Bank's research division, offers an innovative look at price and consumption differences. His objective "is to unveil the importance that differences in income and wealth, affluence, and poverty play in our ordinary lives as well as the importance that they have had historically." This book is divided into three parts: inequality among individuals within a single country, inequality in income among countries or nations, and global inequality or inequality among citizens of the world. Milanovic illustrates his discussion with anecdotes from fiction and fact, e.g., examining the wealth of Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy, Anna Karenina's monetary advantage in marrying, and the wealth of individuals from different eras such as John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates. He also considers how location shapes one's economic future, how income determines choice of life partner, and how the inequality gap between rich and poor is created around the globe. Bibliographic references, charts, and tables are included. VERDICT Students, practitioners, and anyone interested in economics and the issue of inequality would enjoy this.—Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY
Kirkus Reviews

The lead economist at the World Bank's research division takes a timely look at the inequality of income and wealth.

Global inequality is "extremely high," writes Milanovic (Worlds Apart: Measuring International and Global Inequality, 2005), with the richest ten percent of income recipients receiving 56 percent of global income, while the poorest ten percent receive only 0.7 percent.A few poor countries are catching up with the rich world, but the differences between the richest and poorest individuals are enormous and likely to grow. In this wide-ranging book, the author examines inequality within nations and between nations, using vignettes to illustrate how wealth and income differences play out in daily life. However, Milanovic's detailed explanations of how available data can be used to produce insights are often complex and dense—they will be rough going for most non-specialists. Fortunately, the anecdotes make up most of the book and shed considerable light on a grab-bag of issues related to inequalities past and present. For instance: Although Marcus Crassus of ancient Rome had an income equal to the annual incomes of about 32,000 people of his time, John D. Rockefeller was probably the richest person ever, with an income equal to that of about 116,000 people in 1937.Rome wins hands down, however, when the income of its senators (about $21 million annually) is compared to that of today's U.S. senators (less than $700,000). In China, where inequality doubled between the 1980s and 2005, the disparity between haves and have-nots threatens national unity. Anywhere in the world, writes Milanovic, more than 80 percent of a person's income can be explained by two factors: place of birth and parents' income class. The only ways to improve one's income: hard work, growth in the national mean income of one's country (carrying the entire population with it) and immigration. The author also discusses differences between the United States and the European Union, similarities between Asia and Latin America and whether the world actually has a middle class ("at best only emerging").

Authoritative but not easy reading.

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The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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