The Great Divergence
America's Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do about It
By Timothy Noah
(Bloomsbury Press, Hardcover, 9781608196333, 272pp.)
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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For the past three decades, America has steadily become a nation of haves and have-nots. Our incomes are increasingly drastically unequal: the top 1% of Americans collect almost 20% of the nation’s income—more than double their share in 1973. We have less equality of income than Venezuela, Kenya, or Yemen.
What economics Nobelist Paul Krugman terms "the Great Divergence" has until now been treated as little more than a talking point, a club to be wielded in ideological battles. But it may be the most important change in this country during our lifetimes—a sharp, fundamental shift in the character of American society, and not at all for the better.
The income gap has been blamed on everything from computers to immigration, but its causes and consequences call for a patient, non-partisan exploration. In The Great Divergence, Timothy Noah delivers this urgently needed inquiry, ignoring political rhetoric and drawing on the best work of contemporary researchers to peer beyond conventional wisdom. Noah explains not only how "the Great Divergence" has come about, but why it threatens American democracy—and most important, how we can begin to reverse it.
The Great Divergence is poised to be one of the most talked-about books of 2012, a jump-start to the national conversation about what kind of society we aspire to be in the 21st century: a land of equality, or a city on a hill—with a slum at the bottom.
Timothy Noah was recently named "TRB," the lead columnist at The New Republic. He wrote for Slate for a dozen years, and previously served at the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, and the Washington Monthly. He edited two collections of the writings of his late wife, Marjorie Williams, including the New York Times bestseller The Woman at the Washington Zoo. Noah received the 2011 Hillman Prize, the highest award for public service magazine journalism, for the series in Slate that forms the basis of The Great Divergence.
"A very impressive and important book"—William Julius Wilson, The Nation
"The Great Divergence by Timothy Noah is a book about income inequality, and if you’re thinking, ‘Do we really need another book about income inequality?’ the answer is yes. We need this one."—Joe Nocera, New York Times
"In The Great Divergence, the journalist Timothy Noah gives us as fair and comprehensive a summary as we are likely to get of what economists have learned about our growing inequality....Along the way, he enlivens what might otherwise be a dry recounting of research findings with fast-paced historical vignettes featuring colorful characters like the novelist Horatio Alger, the labor leader Walter Reuther, and the business lobbyist Bryce Harlow."—Benjamin Friedman, New York Times Book Review (front page review)
"The Great Divergence is a welcome antidote…. I particularly recommend Noah’s list of solutions…. his book is both much needed and a delight to read."—Andrew Hacker, The New York Review of Books
"Timothy Noah has written a graceful book on income inequality in America, based on his prize-winning 2011 series for Slate. And The Great Divergence is well-timed: it emerges just as inequality is being transformed, via crisis and stress, from an academic backwater into a leading issue of the age … In short, this is a valuable book."—James K. Galbraith, Salon.com
"Superb … Noah is our unpretentious Detective Columbo, walking us through theories of the case."—Rich Yeselson, The American Prospect
"A timely, cogent and fair-minded book from journalist Timothy Noah about the shrinking of the U.S. middle class…. the sentences are graceful, and the points are clear…. I was glad last week when Noah was available to debate Edward Conard, whose forthcoming book, Unintended Consequences, embraces harsh economic inequity as the just reward for innovators. Conard, a former partner in Bain Capital, resides in the upper 0.01 percent income bracket. Noah's book is a rebuttal, a potent argument that the ‘worst thing we could do to the Great Divergence is get used to it.’"—Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer
"Noah’s…thesis is seductive…. [his] book is a valuable addition to the political landscape. Uncontrolled inequality is undermining many of America’s best attributes. As he concludes, ‘The worst thing we could do to the Great Divergence is get used to it.’"—Sasha Abramsky, The Washington Spectator
"Noah successfully explains complex economic trends in common parlance. In this presidential election year, his book provides an excellent introduction to the hot topic of income inequality. Recommended for the 99 percent and anyone else concerned with the future of America's middle class."—Rebekah Wallin, Library Journal
"Economic equality has slipped to an alarming low in the United States. In The Great Divergence Timothy Noah does an excellent job of telling us how this happened—and why it matters … [an] essential new … accessible, erudite book."—Jordan Michael Smith, The Christian Science Monitor
"A reader might assume that he’s already read Tim’s award-winning series in Slate, and the beautiful slideshow that went with it, and wonder whether he needs to read the book as well. The answer is yes - this is in no way a padded out magazine article. The series was about inequality itself; the book is more of a story—and really, in its way, a dramatic one."—Mark Schmitt, WashingtonMonthly.com’s "Ten Miles Square" blog
"One of 2012's most important books … a landmark analysis of the subject."—Ed Kilgore, WashingtonMonthly.com’s "Political Animal" blog
"So you’re busy and stressed and have time to read just one book on America’s faultline crisis of widening inequality. This is the one. Tim Noah, a pro’s pro among the nation’s press corps, reveals why America has increasingly become a land of haves and have-nots—and how to reverse that soul-crushing trend—with insight, verve, thoroughness and surprising passion. A must read."—Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President
"This book is profoundly fascinating and important. The growth of income inequality over the past three decades has caused a contentious partisan debate based more on ideology than fact. Timothy Noah provides a clear, dispassionate look at what has (and has not) caused this trend and what we can do about it. Everyone who cares about the future of America’s middle class should read it."—Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin and President of the Aspen Institute
"This may be the most important book of the year. Timothy Noah explores the most significant long-term trend in our country, and he writes with an ease and clarity that makes reading this book a pleasure. Buy it now and read it. You’ll probably end up buying more copies for your friends and colleagues."—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble
“This is the book the 99 percent has been waiting for. Crisply lucid and brilliantly argued, The Great Divergence manages to entertain at the same time that it explains. Best of all, Noah offers some strikingly sensible steps to undo the economic polarization that is tearing America apart.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed; Bait and Switch; and Bright-Sided
"A lucid, original, fascinating, and very useful guide to the biggest threat to America's future as a democracy. Noah has pulled together the whole array of explanations for the increasing Third World-ization of America—and he has sorted them out for us, with a guide to which are most important and what we can do about them. This is the book that should have been given out at the Occupy movements and—well, to everyone."—James Fallows, author of China Airborne and Breaking the News
“Timothy Noah has taken the most consequential domestic issue of this or any election and made us understand it in a completely new way. The Great Divergence is compelling, important and hugely readable. I learned something new in almost every sentence.”—Jonathan Alter, author of The Promise and The Defining Moment
"An instant classic."—Ariana Huffington
“Essential background reading for the coming elections.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Comprehensive, fair-minded, and lucid … Noah makes a convincing and passionate case for why rising inequality harms a working democracy." -Publisher's Weekly