A leading British economist makes a concerted effort to explain the elements of global income.
McWilliams (The Flat White Economy: How The Digital Economy is Transforming London and Other Cities of the Future, 2015), executive deputy chairman of economics consultancy Cebr, examines why inequality is massive in some nations and less pronounced in others and how inequality gaps are closing among traditionally unequal nations. He also addresses the confusion regarding the phenomena of inequality and poverty. The author bases his theories on a mixture of his own research, the research of other economists, and aggregate data from sources such as the United Nations and regional consortia. Because McWilliams tries to drive home so many hypotheses in the book, the effect might be dizzying for lay readers. He alleviates some of these difficulties by including clearly written introductions to each of the book’s four parts. In Part I, the author distinguishes among types and causes of inequality and then explains why understanding the nuances of income inequality truly matters to individuals as well as entire nations. He specifically discredits some of the influential theories of Thomas Piketty’s bestselling Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014). In Part II, McWilliams challenges readers to understand a paradox: While poverty is falling worldwide, inequality is rising in many areas. In Part III, the author narrows his focus by trying to grasp how the wealthy accumulated so much capital and whether their exalted status can be reduced in future generations. (The answer is yes, but the number of generations is probably five.) In Part IV, McWilliams offers a range of potential solutions: The most promising is his suggestion for equal access to quality education from childhood through college. Throughout the book, the author alternates between abstraction and explanations of how economics plays out in real life, with a memorable opening example from the realm of professional soccer.
A challenging monograph that will reward diligent readers.