About The Book
The 2008 presidential campaign ended with a sharp moral debate about the distribution of wealth in the United States. In a timely and provocative work of empirically-grounded social criticism, Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly's Unjust Deserts provides powerful new ammunition in that debate.
At the center of their rich and persuasive argument is the economic impact of socially-created knowledge. As people have solved numerous problems that bewildered and plagued those before us, we have accumulated an immense "stock of knowledge" which now plays a central role in economic growth, and is largely responsible for the real income gains that separated the twentieth century from all that came before.
This "stock of knowledge" is a social inheritance, nurtured by governments, institutions, and culture, and created by many generations of people. And yet even as our economic growth has become so highly socialized through the impact of expanding knowledge, the fruits of knowledge--the wealth being generated by knowledge-based growth--flows increasingly to the top. A new aristocracy is reaping huge unearned gains from our collective intellectual wealth.
In exposing and challenging this contradiction,Unjust Deserts, says Barbara Ehrenreich, "reveals the untold story of wealth creation in our time," and, as Bill Moyers writes, it "opens an extraordinary new vista on the moral bankruptcy of our second Gilded Age."
Praise for Unjust Deserts
"Unjust Deserts is an elegant work of moral philosophy, a reflection on science, technology, cumulative causation and the collective character of the common wealth. It is work with deep implications for structures of pay, ownership and taxation, perfectly timed for the end of the grab-what-you-can era."
-James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations, University of Texas at Austin
"A fresh and original analysis of how a modern economy progresses through the cumulative results of invention, discovery, communication and learning...A genuine work of scholarship."
-Thomas Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, University of Maryland
"This deeply informed and carefully argued study of the social and historical factors that enter into creative achievement formulates issues of entitlement in ways that have far-reaching implications for a just social order. It merits careful study and reflection, and should be a call for constructive action."
-Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"The authors' many interesting and important insights and observations make this a work that deserves to be widely read."
-Robert A. Dahl, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Yale University
"Unjust Deserts reveals the untold story of wealth creation in our time. Our celebrated entrepreneurs and money men are hoisting a cherry to the top of an already existing sundae-and then laying claim to the entire ice cream parlor. There may be individual effort and even genius involved with the cherry placement, but their individual rewards fail to recognize the contributions of other actors-workers, nature, taxpayers, community infrastructure, and our technological inheritance-as the real stars of the show."
-Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
"Rarely do the facts of the matter so illuminate a moral truth as they do in Unjust Deserts. Quite simply, this book changes the fundamental terms of reference for future debates about inequality. It convincingly demonstrates that knowledge is the primary source of our national wealth, with or without the elites at the top who claim the lion's share. In a surprising yet persuasive way, Alperovitz and Daly help us understand what this reality means, and the values at stake, in a nation growing more unequal with each passing day. This book opens an extraordinary new vista on the moral bankruptcy of our second Gilded Age."
-Bill Moyers, Host, PBS' Bill Moyers Journal