Lisa's Reviews > On Inequality

On Inequality by Harry G. Frankfurt
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bookshelves: philosophy, usa, c21st
Recommended to Lisa by: Triffid

It takes no time at all to read this book, which was lying about on the coffee table because The Spouse is reading it for a philosophy essay he has to write. It's written in plain English and is only about 100 pages long.
But I had a bad feeling about the ideas it presents, not least because there is no hope of my being able to challenge the ideas of a Princeton professor with any great aplomb.
The basic idea is that we should not be getting tense about inequality because inequality doesn't make much difference to the poor. If some people are obscenely rich, it isn't going to make much difference to redistribute their wealth because that isn't going to make most people better off. What matters to the poor, he says, is that they should have enough.
Well, yes. But who decides what is enough? It's the people in power who do that. And the evidence of their behaviour is that 'enough' is relative... 'enough' in western society is quite different to 'enough' in developing countries. For people in the West to have 'enough' $5 T-shirts means that people in Bangladesh must manufacture those T-shirts in deplorable conditions for a wage that's not 'enough' for them to live on. We in the West have the living standards that we have because other people don't, and the awful, shameful truth is that there is no way our planet could sustain a situation where everyone all over the world had the same standard of living as we do. The only way we could make this fair is to reduce our standard of living, and I can't see that happening any time soon.
It seems to me that perhaps it could even be better for some poor people if Bill Gates were twice as rich as he is, so that he had 'enough' to give away even more of his obscene wealth. He's done more for poor people with his eradication of polio program than many governments have done with their foreign aid programs.
Beautifully argued in impeccable logic, this book sounded to me like a manifesto to prevent any redistribution of global wealth so that our world could be a fairer place.
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Reading Progress

September 28, 2015 – Started Reading
September 28, 2015 – Finished Reading
October 2, 2015 – Shelved

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Lisa Update 2/12/17 Today I read in the Guardian that the UN is sending a special rapporteur to investigate extreme poverty in the US, the richest country in the world. I rest my case...

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