Battlers and Billionaires (2013) by Andrew Leigh is a solid read by the ALP’s member for Canberra and former Economist about Inequality. It presents a plethora of statistics on how inequality has changed in Australia and conclusions in an impressively short 155 pages or so. The book has extensive end notes that increase the length. It’s definitely very carefully researched.
Inequality is definitely a topic that many people on the left find very interesting. The increase in intra country inequality in many countries in recent decades has sparked debate. Leigh does note that global inequality has been falling due to the rise of China and India.
The book has a great deal of information on inequality through Australia’s history. Leigh shows how the richest Australians according to the percent of national wealth lived in the 1900s. From the 1900s to the 1970s inequality reduced before rising since then and recently rising dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s.
Leigh devotes a chapter to the consequences of inequality and refers frequently to surveys and looks at sporting leagues. Leigh also points out that the effects of inequality have been exaggerated by various people including the book The Spirit Level.
Finally the book makes recommendations about how to reduce inequality. They are first that steps to do so should be done in mind with economic growth, that we should improve education, that the family should be a key part of the program, unions should play a role and that means testing for social benefits should be used and that Australians should recognise that egalitarianism has long been seen as very important for Australians.
I enjoyed reading the book but it didn’t actually motivate me to worry more about equality, indeed it made me reflect more about the whole issue and indeed be a bit less concerned. It is, however, tremendously solid, well written and informative.