On Stiglitz’s Review of Giridharadas

by Don Boudreaux on August 26, 2018

in Books, Health, Myths and Fallacies, Self-deception

It’s been a while since I’ve publicly shared a letter to my frequent e-mail tormentor, “Democracy’s Herald”:

Mr. or Ms. Herald:

Yes, I did read Joseph Stiglitz’s review, in today’s New York Times, of Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All. Unlike you, I’m not remotely impressed by what you describe as Stiglitz’s “case against modern globalization and inequality.”

Stiglitz offers nothing that can be described as a case. He simply tosses out a few cherry-picked facts mixed with dubious assertions and presumes that his readers will thus share his conviction that today’s world is hellish and will become even more hellish without a radical increase in the role of the state.

An example of Stiglitz’s slippery style of argumentation is his complaint about “the Republican moves to eliminate health insurance for some 13 million in a country where life expectancy is already in decline.” Stiglitz likely is referring to this recent report on life-expectancy in OECD countries, which finds a dip in life-expectancy in the U.S. from 2014 to 2015. But Stiglitz ignores the fact that this report finds a dip in life-expectancy also in the U.K. – a country whose National Health Service allegedly guarantees free health care to all citizens.

Stiglitz also conveniently elides the reality that this decline in life-expectancy in the U.S. occurred on the watch of Pres. Obama. And so if he insists on simplistically connecting government policies with complex statistical findings, he should applaud rather than bemoan Republican’s opposition to Obamacare.

A final point: Stiglitz’s claim that Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains – a supposed work of history revealed to be a farcical hatchet-job – “provides a salutary lesson on the dangerous ways a self-serving ideology can spread” is reason enough to dismiss all that Stiglitz says on this subject.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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