On Inequality

k10536Harry G. Frankfurt

On Inequality is a curious book. For one thing, it’s based on material previously published. That’s not unusual in itself, but in this case the earlier work dates from 1987 and 1997. It’s not often that a new book in the social sciences, never mind the hard sciences, relies so comfortably on such ancient sources.

Frankfurt’s book appears to have been prompted primarily by the unexpected popularity of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, which makes an argument against income inequality with which Frankfurt strenuously — and repetitively — disagrees.

I’m not unsympathetic with Frankfurt’s quite narrow central thesis: “From the point of view of morality, it is not important that everyone should have the same. What is morally important is that each should have enough.” You don’t have to distribute ten jackets equally among eight people to give everyone a jacket. Point made.

Seems obvious enough, yet Frankfurt spends all of his short book making and remaking this simple point. Weren’t the original journal articles sufficient? Why go to this trouble now, unless to attempt to remedy the lack of attention paid to the point then by cashing in on the current interest piqued by Piketty?

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The Price of Paradise

Price of Paradise
David Dante Troutt


The Price of Paradise is a closely-argued and carefully-documented accounting of the social segregation and inequality of services that are at the core of the ideal of “local control.”

Troutt argues that “economic collapse pulled back the curtain on the flawed ways we finance schools, public safety, and infrastructure repair, foreshadowing decades of limited services, unstable budgets, and grossly unequal communities.”

Troutt claims that these “flawed ways” are primarily a matter of a sense of place, a function of how defining the space in which one lives as a middle-class citizen dooms other, less fortunate citizens to reduced or absent opportunities for access to that middle class.

In other words, the very existence of middle-class towns and suburbs generates and perpetuates inequality: “Generations of inequitable localist policies have favored the places currently occupied by a fortunate few over those of the emerging majority. This distribution of public resources is unfair, unreasonable, and unsustainable.”

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