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April 13, 2014 | by  | in Arts Books |
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The Inequality Debate (Review)

THE INEQUALITY DEBATE by Max Rashbrooke
4/5 stars

Max Rashbrooke’s slender yet wonderfully researched book lays bare the global problem of income inequality, confirming that New Zealand is one of the OECD’s worst offenders. It makes for pretty grim reading. Of the 2.9 million working adults in New Zealand, just 29,000 control 16 per cent of the country’s combined wealth. Those 29,000 people have a greater share of the country’s wealth than 1.45 million New Zealanders. Let that sink in.

Throughout the book, Rashbrooke breaks down what income inequality actually is and how both the world and New Zealand has descended into such an unequal quagmire. He answers many common questions surrounding income inequality, such as “Why do low incomes matter?” and “What about social mobility?”. In one of the standout sections of the book, ‘Rightful Reward’, he debunks the most common myth surrounding inequality that – if people in the lower income bracket worked harder, they would receive a greater slice of the pie. In short, current pay systems do not reflect people’s social contributions.

But what I felt was missing from this book was suggestions of any possible solutions to the problem. Only in the very last paragraph of the book does Rashbrooke tell us that “we have some control over our inequality, too, through public pressure we place on governments and the way we deal with people around us.” What kind of pressure can we place on governments that can combat such outrageous figures?

The Inequality Debate is both fascinating and horrifying. So short that you’ve got no excuse, this is the best book you can read if you want to be informed on an issue that will dominate the rhetoric of all major political parties this election year.

Bridget Williams Books has just released a series of “snappy paperbacks”, print versions of their digital BWB Texts which “provide a new meeting space, connecting our histories, technologies, shifting readers, emerging and established authors, and our shared futures.”

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