The Great Divide – Joseph Stiglitz on inequality

The Nobel Laureate discusses the causes and consequences of inequality and what we can do about it.

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November 30, 2015

Nobel laureate economist based at Columbia University.

On November 20, Columbia University professor and economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke at the University of British Columbia as the final lecturer in the Liu Institute for Global Issues’ series on inequality.

Stiglitz traces the history of inequality from the post-World War II boom to the extreme stratification we find in American society and in many countries around the world today.

His argument is that “what happened beginning in the late ‘70s, early 80s, in the U.S. under President [Ronald] Reagan and England under [Margaret] Thatcher, was a grand experiment. The experiment was lower taxes [and] strip away regulations, and it was supposed to increase the incentives, free up the economy, the economy would grow. The idea was that yes, it would lead to more inequality, but everybody – people in the middle or the bottom – would get a bigger piece of the pie, everybody would be better off.”

“Well, we’ve now had a third of a century of this experiment, and it has failed. They were right about one prediction: inequality grew. But growth actually in the United States and many other countries slowed down. So this pie got smaller, and [people] in the middle and bottom got a smaller share of a smaller pie. And no wonder they have been experiencing stagnating or declining incomes.”

The current situation in the U.S., warns Stiglitz, gives Canadians a picture of their future – unless we do something about it.

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The Politics of Inequality series is a partnership between OpenCanada and the Lind Initiative at the University of British Columbia.


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