Two big lessons of economic research over the past 10 years are that inequality is not the result of inexorable laws of economics but rather of policy; and that countries that adopt policies that lead to high inequality pay a high price – inequality not only leads to a divided society and undermines democracy, but it weakens economic performance. Hopefully, as Australia debates its new government’s budget and economic “reforms,” it bears this in mind.
Joseph Stiglitz is the winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. He is a former chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and Chief Economist of the World Bank. His most recent book is The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future.