AS A POPULIST war cry, “We are the 99 percent” is hard to beat. But the movement that popularized that phrase has lacked a coherent message. Until now. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist who grew up amid the steel mill grit and grind of Gary, Indiana, has spent decades studying the subject of his provocative new book, The Price of Inequality (Norton). His conclusion: Economic growth, democracy and the upper class itself suffer when the top 1 percent of Americans earns a fifth of the country’s income and controls more than a third of its wealth, as they do today. “The rich do not exist in a vacuum,” he writes. “They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position and produce income from their assets.”

The U.S. government, far from reducing inequality, has spent 30 years doing the opposite: warping the market to shift money toward the top, Stiglitz writes. He isn’t fomenting the politics of envy. He is, rather, seeking to show how fairness and efficiency can work hand in hand, making markets more competitive and the economy more resilient.


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