Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Slogging Through: Reading Deaton's "The Great Escape"

Oh, hey.  Hello there. 

I was just listening to some Motorhead and enjoying this fine Brie Cheese.

You weren’t here to talk about the brie?

That’s fine.  I understand. 

Inequality.  Yeah, I hear that’s bad.

You know, I’m actually concerned about that too.  I’ve read several books about that in the last couple of year.  One by Thomas Frank, and he was mad.  But that’s journalists for you – real bomb-throwers.  I read another couple of them by economists, Reich and Stiglitz.  They were good, but they were angry too.  They really got my blood up and made me want to go out and make a difference.

I read this new one, The Great Escape, by Angus Deaton.  He wears a bowtie, and is an economist, but isn’t a baby-eating right winger.  He’s also not a writer with a lot of verve, or at least in this book.  He begins with a long, dry segment on health disparities across nations; then he goes on and looks at inequality within the US, which put me on familiar ground; he ends up looking at monetary disparity between nations.  The end part was the most interesting, because the rest of the book was developing his moral qualification, but what he calls for is counter-intuitive.  He makes a strong case for pulling away foreign aid, both in humanitarian and infrastructure projects.  It was a weird cognitive dissonance.

But that is all.  It is a really dry book with a hint of puzzled interest at the end.  If it were not a library book with a coming due date, I would have put it on the shelf with a bookmark about a third of the way through with the other dozens of books I have similarly abandoned.  It’s not bad, it’s just a slog.