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Waar ligt het ongelijkheidsprobleem ?

CAMBRIDGE – Wanneer je Thomas Piketty’s nieuwe invloedrijke boek Capital in the Twenty-First Century leest, zou je kunnen concluderen dat de wereld niet zo‘n ongelijkheid heeft gekend sinds de dagen van roofbaronnen en koningen. Dat is raar, omdat je uit een ander uitmuntend nieuw boek, The Great Escape van Angus Deaton (dat ik onlangs heb besproken), zou kunnen concluderen dat de wereld gelijker is dan ooit te voren.

Welke zienswijze is correct? Het antwoord hangt er vanaf of je alleen naar individuele landen kijkt of naar de wereld als geheel.

Het overkoepelende feit in het boek van Deaton is dat de laatste decennia meerdere miljarden mensen in de ontwikkelingswereld, vooral in Azië, zijn ontsnapt aan zeer wanhopige niveaus van armoede. Dezelfde machine die de ongelijkheid in rijke landen heeft vergroot, heeft mondiaal voor miljarden het speelveld eerlijker gemaakt. Van veraf bekeken en als je, laten we zeggen, een Indiër het zelfde gewicht geeft als een Amerikaan of Fransman, vallen de laatste 30 jaar onder de beste in de menselijke geschiedenis wat betreft het verbeteren van het lot van de armen.

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