Hard Bargains. A review of Anthony Atkinson, Inequality: What Can be Done?

Summer 2017

Anthony (Tony) Atkinson died in January of this year, leaving behind a rich professional legacy of economic analysis, particularly in the study of inequality and poverty. His final book, Inequality: What Can Be Done?, is a masterful summation of a life’s work on distributional issues, setting out a compelling case for reducing economic inequality from its current high levels and an economically credible path towards achieving that objective. At the heart of the book is a detailed set of costed policy proposals which, taken together, would amount to an egalitarian change of direction in almost every advanced indus-trial democracy, and would certainly constitute a fundamental rupture in the current direction of British public life. Atkinson’s proposals include relatively familiar elements such as more progressive income tax rates; the state acting as the employer of last resort; greater taxation of capital, especially inherited wealth and gifts inter vivos; a high universal child benefit; and a renewal of the social insurance components of the welfare state. 

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Renewal: a journal of social democracy, Volume 25 No 2