There are lots of potential surprises in this episode. Let’s start with guest Branko Milanovic‘s claims about capitalism; there are (at least) two different varieties, and he considers China a definitively capitalist country. The conversation also raises fascinating questions about inequality and the effects that capitalism– of any stripe- is having on our humanity.
EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Milanovic to talk about his newest book, Capitalism, Alone, and his decades-long research on inequality. Use the prompts below to continue the conversation.
1- What is the difference between liberal and political capitalism as Milanovic describes them? On what grounds does he consider China as a capitalist country? Are you convinced?
2- Milanovic has found that income inequality in the US has increased on a per capita as well as household basis, and this concerns him. What are the things wrought by this inequality that most worry him? What is the role of assortative mating in this process? To what extent should we be worried about the trends Milanovic identifies?
3- Why does Milanovic argue that corruption is endemic to a capitalist system? How does he describe the nature of corruption in China, and why does he chastise Americans for being “too moralistic” with regard to corruption? ARE cronyism and corruption inescapable attributes of capitalism?
4- Roberts worries that many Americans romanticize of Chinese bureaucracy and infrastructure, and that we may have a “thirst for tyrants.” To what extent do you agree with Milanovic that “people are willing to trade some political powers for economic gain”? Is this equally true in your nation?
5- Roberts and Milanovic explore the bright and dark sides of capitalism at the end of the conversation. What are the negative effects of commercial society on your soul? Are these effects balanced by the positive effects of commercial society?