Wealth & Poverty

Wealth & Poverty

Wealth & Poverty

Wealth & Poverty

Excerpt

Wealth and poverty are the prime concerns of economics, but they are subjects too vast and vital to be left to economists alone. Although economists have provided me with some of my most valued counsel--and I will be acknowledging them in numbers--this book is in part an essay on the limitations of contemporary economics in analyzing the sources of creativity and progress in all economies.

Sociologists, too, have contributed to this work, and I will be thanking several. But one of my major themes is the grave distortions of view that issue from the sociological practice of discussing society chiefly in segments to be studied separately and statistically: the poor, the rich, women, men, business, and labor.

This book sprang from an earlier work of mine, Visible Man, an essentially sociological venture that undertook to understand poverty by studying the poor. Visible Man became a nonfiction novel based on interviews with hundreds of poor people in Albany, New York, and Greenville, South Carolina. I learned much from these researches about the devastating impact of the programs of liberalism on the poor. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was the inadequacy of any theory of poverty that did not embody a theory of wealth. So Wealth and Poverty began with the title "The Pursuit of Poverty" and ended as an analysis of the roots of economic growth.

The contributors to my earlier analyses have been acknowledged in earlier works. Let me merely say in passing that this book could not exist without the earlier works and previous researches, and that my immersion in the world of economics was made far more fruitful by my previous immersions in the literature of anthropology and social theory, from Margaret Mead Male and Female to Steven Goldberg The Inevitability of Patriarchy.

Nonetheless, this book gained its special reach and character from a study of economics that began ten years ago with Milton Friedman Capitalism and Freedom and led over the years through the works of Schumpeter and Keynes into what has been described with some felicity as "the supply-side" school of contemporary economists.

Intellectual progress, like the creation of wealth, does not normally occur in the rational and incremental way preferred by professional . . .

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