The Perilous Fate of Modern Capitalism

William J. BernsteinIf you believe that an easy solution to improve lower-class standards of living is to raise the minimum wage, or you are curious about what university presidents spend their time on, Angus Deaton’s new book provide insightful answers to those and many more questions that, taken together, challenge the relevance of modern economics and the capitalism it supports.

It’s not surprising that economist Angus Deaton cares about inequality and social class; his father, acoal miner,somehow garnered a scholarship spot for him at Fettes College, a prestigious Edinburgh boarding school, whence he matriculated to Cambridge, then emigrated to the United States, where the 2015 economics Nobel Prize crowned his career.

Fettes College in the early 1960s didn’t have many scholarship students; when a student ran short of funds and inquired of the bursar how they could manage a delayed paycheck, they were supposedly told to “simply sell some stocks and bonds.” When an impoverished mother of Deaton’s fellow Cambridge student was asked where her son had gone, the only location that she thought the other mothers would understand was the juvenile prison at Borstal.

Economics in America explores Deaton’s remarkable journey from povertyto the heart of academic political economy, a field that Keynes characterized as “the political problem of mankind: how to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice, and individual liberty.”