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Quick Review: The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality

Expected an infuriating rose-tinted view of the present, and it does start that way, but it also makes plenty of good points, such as the value of knowledge over wealth and growth, the fact that things quite often get worse, and definitely that market forces can’t be trusted with progress and public works and policies are needed. The section about poverty in the USA, which applies in general, is also surprisingly good, as is the later one about measuring poverty, plus most of the section about politics and inequality and most of that chapter’s conclusions.
But population growth being clearly listed as positive is infuriating, as is the rant against population control, spewing the usual idiocies, and the repeated assumption that life is in itself worth living. Same goes for stating that inequality can be good because it can show the way to those who are behind, and while saying that progress creates inequality is fair, it doesn’t really tackle unfairness, injustice, why wealth would determine who benefits first. Actually, the author seems to often fail to grasp the limitations created by lack of money when goods and services are just business, even repeatedly wondering why the knowledge and developments that work in wealthy countries fail to bring the same benefits to poor ones and mentioning social acceptability as a likely answer! And he flits between positions, not taking stances and repeatedly seeming to change conclusions. For example, contrary to the good points mentioned above, still trusting and relying on the free market too much, as well as the impossible concept of endless growth, or failing to grasp obstacles and largely blaming the worse off in the part about labor market inequality, or stating that poverty may be overevaluated and listing particularly low thresholds for it. And then there’s the chapter about aid, which makes some good points about potential problems but has utterly dreadful conclusions and recommendations, largely boiling down to “hands off and let them handle things themselves”… And that USA and Sweden example, offered in support of that stance, is something that would actually be great!

Rating: 2/5


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