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Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on December 2, 2007

People strike back at what they perceive to be injustices. Having a lot of money is not an injustice. To repeat an idea from my review: people hated the Robber Barons because they were robbers and barons, not because they were rich. The labor movement was strong when it was perceived that firms were making superprofits that could be more equitably shared with the workers. Gender inequality and racial discrimination are opposed because they are unfair, not because they lead to an unequal division of wealth.

–Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Herbert Gintis, regarding his (negative) review of Paul Krugman’s The Conscience of a Liberal, and his view that American “liberals” are unproductively obsessed with the concept of economic inequality.

Unfamiliar observers should note that Gintis is about as far to the “left” politically as it is possible to be in the US without being a full-fledged Marxist (he would probably consider himself a Marxian-inspired heterodox economist). He is however, an insightful and fair-minded thinker who has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t care about developing good rhetorical points for political debates, but rather about studying social problems such as poverty and poor schooling so that these problems can actually be ameliorated.

2 Responses to “Remark of the Week”

  1. […] this with what I wrote about UMass professor Herbert Gintis, discussing Gintis’ critical review of Paul Krugman’s latest book: [In contrast to […]

  2. […] the politics and rhetoric of two prominent economists, Paul Krugman and Herbert Gintis (see here and here). Although the conventional wisdom would hold that Gintis is farther to the left than […]

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