free Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common InheritanceAuthor Gar Alperovitz –

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10 thoughts on “Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance

  1. says:

    Unjust Deserts is a stimulating book The authors primary conclusion is that most of us do not deserve our incomes, since the vast majority of our income is determined not by our own contribution but by the accumulated technology, know how, and capital that we ve inherited from the past The authors argue that instead, society has a claim to the share of our income that comes from our accumulated stock of technology, knowledge, and capital While it raises important problems for us, I think its conclusions fall short The first half of the book is a highly readable overview of modern growth theory and the new institutional economics with fascinating excursions into the the sociology of invention and recent developments in cognitive psychology This work shows convincingly the overwhelming role of technology in improving our cognitive abilities, our organizational capabilities, and of course productive powers The authors also convincingly rebut the great man theory of innovation and invention.The second half of the book turns to the concept of desert and explores the distinction between deserved and undeserved income through a historical perspective The real inspiration for the authors is David Ricardo, whose concept of economic rent made precise the distinction between the income due to the inherent scarcity of some resource and income from contribution The authors survey the development of Ricardo s concept of economic rent into the distinction between the social and individual contributions to economic performance Because society s manifold contributions account for most of our income, we should consider the share of our income attributable to society as a kind of common property to be distributed by principles of social justice.Unfortunately, the book s argument gets confused here Even if the authors successfully show that individuals do not deserve most of their income, nothing by itself follows from that conclusion about how this manna from heaven should be distributed The authors are in a similar position to John Rawls, who famously argued that the principle of desert is not an appropriate basis for social justice But as commentators on Rawls observed, nothing by itself follows from denying the principle of desert about what distribution is justified Indeed, Rawls relies upon an egalitarian argument articulated in the difference principle and the idea of The authors are sensitive to the challenge of providing further argument, and they suggest that the empirical observation of the fact that the exercise of individual talents plays only a relatively small role in generating prosperity might be such an argument for distributing income according to a principle other than desert 175 Unfortunately, an empirical observation by itself doesn t say anything about what the distribution of income in a society ought to be In contrast, Rawls explicitly defends the principles of justice as fairness by reference to a constellation of ideas including a notion of fair terms of social cooperation, free and equal citizenship, and the original position The authors express sympathy with Rawls egalitarian conclusion, but they do not themselves endorse Rawls defense for egalitarian justice The importance of a clear defense of some distributive principle for the social residual contribution becomes clear when we consider some responses skeptics might make to the argument For example, why shouldn t the empirical argument of this book support greater inequalities, given that the efforts of people today will produce vast amounts of wealth for people in the future Why not think of the future inheritance as an uncompensated positive externality of our current work Another worry, assuming the principle of desert is correct, is that even if the very rich today do not deserve the whole of their income, why should those of us who do even less than the very rich have a claim to redistribution Desert in this way is non comparative the mere fact that someone else is less deserving doesn t make me deserving There is also a deeper worry about the framework of this book that involves the tension between inter generational considerations of justice and justice for contemporaries If the social residual is so great, isn t it selfish to redistribute the proceeds of our inheritance among ourselves The value of the social residual, in particular, will produce even astounding achievements and well being for future generations Why is there some duty to distribute this inheritance to contemporaries rather than husband it to for the use of an indefinitely many future generations How do we adjudicate between the interests of contemporaries and the interests of our successors Does it even make sense to talk about the interests of future generations, given that they don t yet exist The book hints at some deep problems here, but doesn t explicitly take them up As someone interested in puzzles around intergenerational justice and the problems of distribution the knowledge economy creates, I found Unjust Deserts tremendously interesting if ultimately unsatisfying I highly recommend it.

  2. says:

    Unjust Deserts es un libro que propone una teor a de justicia distributiva del conocimiento heredado por generaciones anteriores, el libro parte de la teor a del crecimiento desde Solow hasta loa modelos de crecimiento endogeno para hacer un caso sobre como la producci n de valor econ mico depende en gran medida de nuestra producci n de conocimiento Por ejemplo el 30% del PIB de Estados Unidos puede vincularse al desarrollo de la mec nica cu ntica y sus aplicaciones o que el 90% del PIB del mundo actual puede vincularse a avances cient ficos y tecnol gicos que datan al menos desde 1870 Partiendo del hecho de que en gran medida mucho de lo que producimos parte de un valor social que va m s all de la figura de un genio inventor y que m s bien es la estructura social, las instituciones y la acumulaci n colectiva de conocimiento la que eventualmente produce los grandes avances En este sentido el libro utiliza mucho el trabajo de Robert K Merton sobre la construcci n social del conocimiento y le hace honor a la famosa frase de Isaac Newton Si vi m s lejos es porque estaba parado en los hombros de gigantes Finalmente despu s de una larga argumentaci n en t rminos econ micos teor a del crecimiento entre otros trabajos de Arrow, Akerlof entre otros y cient ficos los autores proponen una visi n filos fica de la justicia distributiva en donde partiendo de una tradici n inaugurada por Locke y continuada hasta Thomas Paine, Mill, Hobhouse y otros pensadores liberales cl sicos argumentando como el merecer deserts esta vinculado a la contribuci n que el individuo hace a la sociedad y dada la naturaleza colectiva del conocimiento que heredamos y produce riqueza ese merecer desert pertenece en parte a la sociedad y como tal esta debe percibir esos beneficios que son ileg timamente capturados por individuos que lucran con un conocimiento al que han contribuido solo marginalmente El libro es fascinante y es f cilmente uno de los mejores libros que he le do, es un libro muy recomendable y que sin duda despu s de leerlo es imposible no ver al mundo de forma diferente.

  3. says:

    I bought this book because my philosophy tends to lean in the direction indicated by the book to the left , but I was disappointed because this book was just crappy It read like a Ph.D thesis than a popular economics book It drew on lots of philosophy, Locke, John Stuart Mill, etc when frankly I don t care who said these same things or different things 200 years ago I just want a coherent argument that applies now Philosophy has a fetish with expanding on previous authors work as if those ideas were owned by those authors As the central thesis of this book is that much of our wealth is inherited and belongs to us all, the same should be applied to philosophy I don t care what John Stuart Mill said just say it to me now and I will judge whether I believe it.This was meant to be a book of ideas, but it turned out to be a book of quotation marks That is not to say that the content has been completely lost for me, but it certainly shouldn t have taken me 3 months to read it, and the message has been diluted over time.

  4. says:

    If you have ever wondered why we pay taxes, how high taxes really should be, or if the rich really are shouldering their fare share of taxes in our society, this book may have an answer that is far satisfying than any glib partisan opinions or ideology In a surprisingly readable tome the authors review some very interesting research and thought ranging from first principles and definitions of just desserts and entitlement through the changing nature of value creation in a knowledge economy One notable thought experiment was to imagine Bill Gates alone and penniless on an island, without a society around him, would he be a billionaire in a year, in ten, or ever If you are prepared to follow some carefully laid out logic explaining the concept of economic rent , deserved vs undeserved desserts, and the concept of taxes as how society is paid for enabling wealth creation, then this read might challenge everything you think you know about how society and wealth interact.

  5. says:

    Alperovitz is a communist in many respects, and his disdain for private property rights characterizes his works However, in this book he manages to restrain his ideological leanings to make cogent and rational arguments against the abuses of intellectual property law It is an effective book, one that manages to polemicize without going too far off of a logical narrative The logical side of the book makes its ultimate points all the damning Like Naomi Klein, Alperovitz is capable of eviscerating his opponents and their positions to devastating effect with his gifts as a polemicist Perhaps the best writing he s ever done, both stylistically and substantively.

  6. says:

    I love this guy Gar Alperovitz You can find his talks on Utube He is creating an image for the future of our civilization In this book he and Lew Daly explain in economic terms what Elizabeth Warren said a few years later, that if your business was a success, it was on the backs of all that had come before and all that was provided to make our country so conducive to entrepreneurship.This book takes some work and is not a fast or simple read But it is clear Maybe the hardest part is changing ideas that may be wedged into the back of our brains from childhood Once you get it, it seems so obvious.

  7. says:

    Proves way too much and way too little.If no one deserves anything because anyone s marginal input is zero, then why distribute things in any particular manner This book does not confront any counterarguments.Moreover, it does not have a real flow of its own Rather, the authors quote favored sources with approval to make roughly the same points over and over again in a rather short book.

  8. says:

    A bit over my head The one concept the writers made that I understoodeconomic success comes from societies accumulated knowledge than the action of any single person or company Compensation however goes to individuals Taxation is used to compensate society for their input Interesting reading.

  9. says:

    A great book that lets you conceive the origin of the wealth of nations in a radial new way, as a collective inheritance in the form of natural resources and collectieve achievements like knowledge rather than summation individual work efforts.

  10. says:

    Written like a doctoral thesis.clear and precise in delivery but very wordy.