The Great Divide by Joseph Stiglitz

Any casual observer can see that Lanark, like thousands of other towns, is a shabby, moribund little backwater with rapidly deteriorating public services. At the same time, we’re treated to the sight of billionaires parading their wealth on “Eamonn & Ruth: How the other half lives” ( And any trip to the smarter parts of London, or the exclusive playgrounds of the rich, is a jaw-dropping confirmation of how grotesque inequality has become.

It is inequality which is the subject of The Great Divide by Joseph Stiglitz. What he shows is that the grasping avarice of the few is paid for by the deteriorating lives of the many, such as those who live in Lanark. The connection, which may seem abstract, is all too real. The book, a compilation of articles written over the past seven years by the former World Bank chief economist, is built on two major themes. First, it blames the financial crisis of 2008 on President George W. Bush, bankers, deregulation and the unbridled greed of financial services men. Second, it shows up the massive income divide in the world. Stiglitz  shows how democracy is “closer to a system of one dollar one vote than to one person one vote.”

Stiglitz acknowledges that global inequality has narrowed in recent decades, but he says, in reference to The States, that ‘American inequality began its upswing 30 years ago, along with tax decreases for the rich and the easing of regulation on the financial sector.’ He contrasts this with the decades after World War II, when the U.S. ‘grew at its fastest pace, and the country grew together.’ But now, he says, ‘the American dream is a myth.’

This is just as true for British society. Fairness and social mobility have been murdered by the money men ( The 5% are sailing on top of the rest who are drowning. The effects are insidious, but look around. Your local Council is being strangled by austerity. Your child’s education is deteriorating (, and when (s)he emerges from college with a £25,000 debt, the prospect of home ownership will be a fantasy. Zero hours contract ‘jobs’ are commonplace. The quality of their lives will be worse than yours. The public toilet in your town centre is shut, as the local community hospital will be. The High Street is full of charity shops, bookies, pay day lenders and purveyors of cheap tat whose name has the word ‘pound’ in it. The placement of a few hanging baskets is well meaning, but lipstick on a gorilla looks better.

Which side of the great divide are you on? Get hold of this book by Stiglitz if you can afford it. If not, enquire at your local library before it shuts. Check if this important title is in stock by consulting the online catalogue at

Otherwise use your Coutts of the Strand Bankers Card to order it from an online retailer (

Joseph Stiglitz ( is Professor of Economics at Columbia University and winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001. He is a former senior vice president of The World Bank, and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

464 pages in Allen lane

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0241202906

Image result for joseph stiglitz

Professor Joseph Stiglitz

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