People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent: by-Joseph E. Stiglitz
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It reads easily and is easily understandable. Stiglitz is direct, and to the point, in what he says. He strongly takes on big business, the super-wealthy and Donald Trump. He defines the problem and the solution.
Stiglitz won the Nobel Prize for economics, was the chairman of the Council of Economic of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, was chief economist of the World Bank and now teaches at Columbia University.
The focus of the book is on the domination of the economy by large business. Stiglitz posits that the interests of the very wealthy dominate both the economy and politics. He focuses most significantly on the banking industry, which he is strongly critical of. Related to it and the 2008 meltdown of the economy, he faults President Obama for not pursuing prosecution of leaders of major banks in 2009 and thereafter.
To a slightly lesser degree he talks of how companies such as Facebook and Amazon are monopolistic, and through that, both are unfairly exploitative of the public, as well as being inefficient, because they lack serious competition. Stiglitz talks of how they prevent competition, by buying out potential competitors such as Instagram (Facebook), before they become serious competitors.
The big drug companies are a significant target, with discussion of how they grossly overprice drugs that are cheap in other countries and have laws such as the Medicare regulations, which prevent negotiations to make the costs reasonable.
The major focus of the book is on how “the market” does not fairly deal with the economy, and needs government regulation and force, to make it avoid monopolistic practices and deal with issues such as pollution, that otherwise are not seriously dealt with.
A big point of the book is that things like the GNP (Gross National Product) do not reflect the people of the United States, instead reflecting the profits of the large corporations. He speaks of how corporations are hindered by their own actions in keeping wages down (and often going lower), making increasing numbers of people unable to afford to buy more than basics. He speaks of how unions and workers should be empowered and supported to help balance the strength of the large corporations. He strongly criticizes the “trickle down” mindset of Reagan, and indicates that it is much worse today with Trump’s leadership.
Stiglitz talks of how the massive, increasing strength of large corporations and their wealthy stockholders leads to inefficiencies in their actions which seek to maximize short term profits, not investing in infrastructure and the hearts of their businesses.
He talks a lot about the needs of government to be stronger, and thereby put more checks and balances on the abuses of large businesses and the super wealthy. He talks about the needs for government support of basic research, which is often being cut now. He talks a lot about how the U.S. is falling economically further and further behind the other major competition (Europe, China and Japan, as well as South Korea for example). He indicates that we seem totally blind to learning what works and doesn’t work in other countries.
Stiglitz talks significantly about equity issues such as how non-white people are discriminated against and kept unequal from white people.
Until the latter part of the book, while he is critical of President Trump and the Republicans, he doesn’t “pile it on”. At the end of the book he makes clear that his hopes for reform rest upon the Democratic Party working seriously for substantive change. He concludes that the Republican Party is totally beholden to the large corporations and wealthy people, at the expense of the other 99%.
Stiglitz is a brilliant man who knows how to talk to all of us. I highly, highly recommend this book!
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