WEALTH AND WANT by Stanley Lebergott


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Thirteen brief essays on issues of wealth and poverty in the US economy: upward mobility, the concentration of wealth, discrimination against minorities, and welfare policies. Lebergott's writing is witty and his material adequately documented, but he frequently crosses over into frivolity and oversimplification. While Lebergott performs a service in urging a healthy disrespect for the economic definitions juggled by politicians and government agencies, he himself often plays intellectual games with controversial issues. For example, since poverty is relative, Legergott contends in his main article, anything that tends to increase the welfare of the majority-higher real wages, regulation of child labor, the institution of retirement programs--simultaneously raises the poverty line. In another piece, Lebergott ridicules the Bureau of Labor Statistics for its arbitrary construction of a minimum family budget. How, he asks, do they determine that a family requires 23 pounds of canned peaches but only 2 pounds of pineapples? There are some unusual approaches in Wealth and Want, as in a piece on guaranteed income where Lebergott purports to demonstrate that, de facto, we have had such a program for the last century, with state aid to the poor rising about 30¢ for each $1.00 increase in wages. On the whole, however, this is very thin fare.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press