Branko Milanovic Profile picture
1) Income inequality; 2) Politics; 3) History; 4) Soccer. Author of "Global inequality" and "Capitalism, Alone" (2019). Grad Center CUNY, LSE, Stone Center
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7 Mar
On March 9, 1776 was published The Wealth of Nations.
Here are 9 not that well-known quotes from it.
Marriage is encouraged in China not by the profitableness of children but by the liberty of destroying them.
All merchants & master manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price & ...lessening the sale of their goods...They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent w regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains.
Read 10 tweets
7 Mar
I read Samir Amin's article on China suggested by @realDrcabbie.…
I highly respect Amin and especially his early work ("the Young Amin") which was very empirical. His later work is less so.
My quick impressions on this one:
1 The review of international pol economy of E Asia's rise (present in other Amin's works & Arrighi) is excellent.
2 Accent on inability to alienate land exaggerates its importance (30y rent is not v diff from selling the land) and the USSR/China comparison there is not v useful.
Read 6 tweets
5 Mar
The problem w/ people who complain about IPR "stealing" is manifold.
At country level, all countries that have developed have used the "stealing" of technology, incl. the US that refused to accept most European patents in the 19thC (see Chiang's The Bad Samaritans).
"Reverse engineering" was key in Japan's and Korea's success.
The accent on IPR today is just a reflection of power relations in the world, and with globalization, greater ability of rich countries to impose the rules that are of benefit for them and enforce them.
It's the same as the ability of the rich within countries to write tax and other rules that are good for them.
Not different at all.
Read 6 tweets
2 Mar
A final point on politics of surveys.
In the past, the usual dissemination was to publish detailed tables with many permutations. Some countries used to publish thick booklets, e.g. British Blue Books, or French Enquetes de menages...
...or similar detailed data from Yugoslavia (APD, all republics), Poland (Badanie...), Hungary, Czechoslovakia.
Some countries (Japan, Taiwan) still publish several hundred pages-long books w/ tables for each survey.
US does it too.
However, such publications are dying out.
People are moving to electronic data.
But this is not all good.
In some cases, yes, the access to micro data (see LIS) has expanded tremendously.
Read 5 tweets
2 Mar
What are the countries about whose income distributions we know the least, i.e. those that either do not conduct income surveys, or do not release them, or do not participate in harmonized data bases by the World Bank, Luxembourg Income Survey, Economic Research Forum etc?
The *worst* (not surprisingly) are Saudi Arabia and North Korea. No surveys ever, no data.

Somalia & Somaliland probably never had a survey either. Eritrea might have had, but nothing is available.
Almost equally bad are Qatar and Oman; and UAE (they at least had 1 survey).
Then, there are difficult cases:
W Sahara is probably included in Moroccan surveys.
Abkhazia, South Ossetia do not have surveys. The same (as far as I know) is true for Macao (but not for Hong Kong which had surveys for 40y), Nauru.
N Cyprus is not included in Cypriot data.
Read 10 tweets
27 Feb
If I had my own way, I would never pay much attention (today) to people who would tell me they want to study inequality & populism, and inequality & discrimination. These are popular topics, everybody is now ready to study them & I would take it as a sign of lack of originality.
But, leaving aside global inequality and links between factoral and personal inequality, which are indeed my favorite topics, I would love on see studies on (here are some examples):
Why the end of apartheid did not bring income inequality down (but increased it) in South Africa?

Will climate change (under current projections) increase inter-country inequality or not?
Read 9 tweets
26 Feb
Expanding on Bukharin.
Bukharin is often credited with a quip that the Soviet Union has a two-party system too, one party is in power, another in jail.
I thought you could try to apply his quip to the current multi-party systems in many post-communist countries.
One could argue that in many there are only three parties:
-party of nationalists,
-party of pensioners, and
-party of the mafia.
The reason is that these are the three constituencies that really exist. The party system thus reflects well the body-politic.
Any kind of the left has ceased to exist. When you do not have the left, you do not have the right either, partly because the ideology of the right is shared by all relevant factions in society: disdain for workers & trade unions, celebration of wealth.
Read 6 tweets
25 Feb
My four worst experiences (+ there are two others but they are too complicated to describe on Twitter).
1 A very famous economist who, after having an email fight with me, writes to the Chief World Bank economist, strongly evoking their personal relationship, to ask that I should be dismissed (I saw the letter). He failed (easily).
2 An even more famous right-wing economist, at a meeting, after we each introduced ourselves, gives me barely a glance and turns himself toward the head of the table & says seriously and sternly, "you pay here people to study inequality and undermine the system?"
Read 5 tweets
18 Feb
If you wanted to bring everybody in the world to the level of the Western median income, total world income would need to be multiplied by 2.5. And you would need to reduce incomes of all those who currently make more than the Western median (~10% of global population).
Obviously, one-half of Western population would have to have their incomes cut; those with the Western mean income by some 15%. Image
If you were to do the same calculation in current exchange rates, the numbers are even bleaker.

The take home message is:
the idea that somehow we can all live at the Western median income and the entire GDP of the world need not increase much is...well, a pure fantasy.
Read 4 tweets
10 Feb
I read this article, recommended as showing how "decent living" can be achieved by much lower energy use. After calculating an arbitrary goods/services basket which the authors call "decent living"…
(an exercise that many economists have done for ages for poverty lines) the authors show that "decent living" (in its more economical version) can be achieved by energy consumption equal to Rwanda's and more generously with that equal to Uruguay's.
Let's accept that.
How are people who are currently consuming multiple times the energy of Rwanda (=most of the rich world) to be convinced to reduce their use so much?
@jasonhickel says it cannot be done by taxes and subsidies & green decoupling.
Let's accept that too.
Read 5 tweets
9 Feb
During the past 50 years, India and China had played key roles in influencing, and then reducing, global inequality. One way to look at their role is to see how they affect population-weighted international inequality (where country incomes are app. by GDPpc in PPP dollars).
China's growth effect has been uneven until the late 1970s. (When the value in the graph is negative, China's growth *reduces* global inequality.)
Note the spike in 1961: China's GDPpc went down by more than 10% and that added to global inequality.
After ~1975, every year China contributed to reducing inequality, but that effect is getting weaker.
This is happening not necessarily because China's growth is less but because China has become sufficiently rich that it no longer drives global inequality down.
Read 5 tweets
7 Feb
My reviews of ten books on China:
How China became a market economy by J Gewirtz…
When China rules the world by M Jacques…
Adam Smith in Bejing by G Arrighi…
China's gilded age by Yuen Yuen Ang…
The China boom by Ho-fung Hung…
On China by H Kissinger…
Memoirs of a Chinese revolutionary by Wang fan-hsi…
Read 4 tweets
14 Jan
Long thread
Half a century of US income redistribution.
The best way to study the extent to which social transfer and direct taxes reduce inequality (by targeting those less well-off and taxing the rich) is to compare inequality before transfers and taxes...
(called market income inequality) with inequality after transfers and taxes. The reduction, expressed in Gini points, has become more important in the US going from around 10 Gini points (point 0.1 on the vertical axis) to about 14 points.
It has been less however than German redistribution that shaves off up to 25 Gini points.

There are two problems with this measurement. First, transfers include government pensions (the main transfer item) that can be seen as deferred wages.
Read 8 tweets
11 Jan
This discussion started several months ago when Twitter labelled Chinese and Russian media "state-affiliated" without doing the same with the state-owned BBC, DW, VoA etc. It absolutely made no sense except if you take it that Twitter is an arbiter of truth.
Moreover even if Twitter labelled all state-owned media the same, it would be still wrong because it would presume that privately-owned media (say, WaPo owned by Bezos or Bloomberg owned by Bloomberg) are somehow "objective", "truthful".
So, if consistent, you would have to label them too: "billionaire-affiliated media".
And then you would continue with other media until every tweet would be labelled.
Read 4 tweets
7 Jan
Just a few simple things to do:
1. Fix the health system
2. Improve public education
3. Tax private university endowments
4. Invest in infrastructure
5. Reduce carbon emissions
6. Increase taxes on the top one-third of tax payers
7. Increase inheritance tax
8. Equalize tax on K and L
9. New anti-monopoly legislation & break-ups
10. Reinforce pro trade union legislation
11. Eliminate ad hoc tariffs on Chinese goods
12. Reverse Citizens United
13. Severely limit the power of lobbyists/donors
Read 4 tweets
5 Jan
2021 is the centennial of practically all Communist parties. Here are the reviews of two books on the parties (Yugoslav & Chinese) that came to power in similar circumstances.
Both books are excellent, and thanks to Amazon (a very capitalist enterprise) can be readily bought.
Communist party in a turbulent time and difficult country
by Ivan Avakumovic…
Memoir of a Chinese revolutionary
by Wang fan-hsi…
Avakumovic is a standard history book that deals with many less well-known aspects of inter-war activities of KPJ incl. its relationship w/ the Comintern and Ustasa (Croat Fascist) movement.
Read 4 tweets
1 Jan
From a Chinese independent video covering the Ant (Ali Baba) case (excerpts from 快看資訊). A very strong text.

If the unhealthy development of business enters a stage of monopoly, it will unconsciously devour all societal resources and cannot help make a quick buck from usury.
For example, in the United States, high-quality education and medical care are only provided to the elite, the bottom has sank further, and social strata solidify...The 40 years since China's “Reform and Opening Up” have completed 200-300 years of capitalist countries development
[But] 1,200 families in China now control 4,000 listed companies. This reflects a problem; China's wealth [inequality] is going to extremes. However, China is a socialist market economy and pursues common prosperity.
Read 8 tweets
31 Dec 20
My book reviews in 2020.
(long thread)
Marx's biography, vol. 1 by Michael Heinrich (excellent)…
The Makioka Sisters, by J. Tanizaki (excellent)…
The Meritocracy Trap by D Markovits (excellent)…
Out of Italy, by F Braudel (very good)…
China's Gilded Age, by Yuan Yuan Ang (excellent)…
Hitler's biography by Ian Kershaw (excellent)…
Read 6 tweets
31 Dec 20
For entertaining and enlightenment, here are some of my debates in 2020.
Is middle class stagnation a myth (with Donald Boudreaux)…
On covid deaths, with @tylercowen
Willing meaningful deaths and unwilling meaningless deaths…
On Trump, with extremist bi-coastal liberals, and neoliberals
What we owe to Donald J Trump…
Trump as the ultimate triumph of neoliberalism…
Read 7 tweets
28 Dec 20
Chateaubriand's Memoires d'Outre-tombe are extraordinary both because of the spread of events (from before 1789 to 1840s) and places (Europe, Middle East, USA) they cover and the quality of observations.
I loved this sentence that does not apply to France only.
"En France, l’oubli ne se fait pas attendre."

Or, a very early formulation of the question that Orban is asking today:
Recevrons nous le chatiment merité d’avoir appris l’art moderne des armes à des peuples dont l’état social est fondé sur l’esclavage et la polygamie? Avons-nous porté la civilisation au dehors, ou avons-nous amené la barbarie dans l’interieur de la chretienté?
Read 6 tweets
27 Dec 20
Reflections & predictions.
After spending a year in North America in 1790-91, and after traveling a lot and meeting people (incl. George Washington), Chateaubriand wrote, probably in 1820s, this assessment of the USA.
The North & the South have different interests. Western states are far from the rest. Can unity of the country be safeguarded? Will it be done by war?
Can the US maintain its hegemony in the Western hemisphere as new independent republics are created in Mexico and further South?
Will long peace that helped US develop sap the ability of the population to face emergencies?
Mercantile spirit is everywhere: "l'interet [commercial] devient le vice national."
A chrysogene (neologism from Greek for wealth) aristocracy is being born.
Read 4 tweets