cover image Economics in America: An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequality

Economics in America: An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequality

Angus Deaton. Princeton Univ, $24.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-691-24762-5

Nobel Prize–winning British economist Deaton (The Great Escape) lambastes American economic injustice in these feisty missives. In “Adventures in American Healthcare,” he decries the country’s medical system as expensive, wasteful, cruelly exclusionary of people without insurance, and difficult to understand (he found it almost impossible to determine how much his hip replacement would cost because of opaque hospital pricing and byzantine insurance rules). Elsewhere, Deaton criticizes the Chicago school of market-oriented economists for obsessing over efficiency while neglecting inequality and discusses research disproving conservative economists’ contention that minimum wage increases raise unemployment. However, he often departs from liberal orthodoxy, arguing, for example, that foreign aid to poor nations is a waste of money that weakens their governments and that cigarette taxes are a form of paternalism that hurts people who have a right to enjoy a smoke. Deaton’s prose is lucid and tartly down-to-earth (the U.S. government works “to help rich predators make ordinary people poorer,” he writes), and he makes a convincing case that “economics should be about understanding the reasons for and doing away with the sordidness and joylessness that come with poverty and deprivation.” The result is a refreshing take on America’s economic discontents. (Oct.)