The haves and have-nots (Branko Milanovic, 2011)

The haves and have-nots (2011) is a valuable and readable book.

The subtitle is: A brief and idiosyncratic history of global inequality. The book includes an extensive list of resources for Further Reading.

I became interested in the above-noted book after reading an article by Chrystia Freeland whose column, which often deals with global inequality, appears in The Globe and Mail. Freeland is the author of Plutocrats: the rise of the new global super-rich and the fall of everyone else (2012). She is also author of Sale of the century: Russia’s wild ride from communism to capitalism (2000).

The first passage I came across, when I began to acquaint myself with Haves and have-nots (2011), had to do with Barack Obama Sr., who set out “on his improbable journey to the New World in 1960” (p. 139). His son became ruler of a country, notes Branko Milanovic, that Barack Obama Sr had never laid his eyes on. As well, the latter’s “newly independent land would become twice poorer (compared to the United States) than it already was.”

In the next paragraph (pp. 139-140), the author quotes Barack Obama Jr. who explains how it was that his mother decided, when her son was eleven, to send him away from Indonesia to stay with his grandparents and attend high school in Hawaii. His mother had taught him “to distain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad.”

She had also learned of “the chasm that separated the life chances of an American from those of an Indonesian. She knew which side of the divide she wanted her child to be on. I was an American, she decided,” writes Barack Obama Jr.,” and my true life lay elsewhere [outside of Indonesia].”

In his concluding chapter Milanovic, whose other books include Worlds apart (2005) and A decade of transition (2001) comments (p. 215) that:

  • “The key challenges of the twenty-first century  may be summarized as follows: how to bring Africa up, how to peacefully bring China in, and how to wean Latin America off of its self-obsession and bring it into the real world. And doing all of this while maintaining peace and avoiding ideological crusades.”


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