Economic inequality is one of the most divisive issues of our time. Yet few would argue that inequality is a greater evil than poverty. The poor suffer because they don’t have enough, not because others have more, and some have far too much. So why do many people appear to be more distressed by the rich than by the poor?
In this provocative book, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of On Bullshit presents a compelling and unsettling response to those who believe that the goal of social justice should be economic equality or less inequality. Harry Frankfurt, one of the most influential moral philosophers in the world, argues that we are morally obligated to eliminate poverty—not achieve equality or reduce inequality. Our focus should be on making sure everyone has a sufficient amount to live a decent life. To focus instead on inequality is distracting and alienating.
At the same time, Frankfurt argues that the conjunction of vast wealth and poverty is offensive. If we dedicate ourselves to making sure everyone has enough, we may reduce inequality as a side effect. But it’s essential to see that the ultimate goal of justice is to end poverty, not inequality.
A serious challenge to cherished beliefs on both the political left and right, On Inequality promises to have a profound impact on one of the great debates of our time.
Awards and Recognition
- Harry G. Frankfurt, 2017 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecturer, American Council of Learned Societies
- One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2016
"Frankfurt has issued a clear challenge to the champions of equality."—Julian Baggini, Financial Times
"The volume should be required reading for candidates of both parties."—Stephen L. Carter, NY Post
"With this book, as in his past work, Frankfurt has shown why it is so important to question common terms that are too often used reflexively. Regardless of one's own views on the past, present, and future of inequality, On Inequality is a salutary effort to help readers pause and think about the beliefs that motivate our rhetoric."—EF, Econ Focus
"On Inequality may unsettle those fuzzy-minded liberals who know they are committed to a more equal society but are not sure why. Given Frankfurt's convincing proof that bourgeois, academic ethics cannot sustain a critique of inequality, these liberals may find themselves turning to intellectual traditions that offer a more radical, systemic critique."—Los Angeles Review of Books
"The best discussion of the moral aspects of income inequality that I have read recently."—New Boston Post
"Harry Frankfurt has once again shown himself to be a sensitive, humane and highly original philosopher. Anyone who is disturbed by the rise of inequality should grapple with what he has to say about why it is troubling. They will learn a great deal by doing so even if, in the end, they do not find his arguments persuasive."—Paul Weithman, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"In an accessible, informal tone, this book explains essential techniques that students, postdoctoral researches, and early career scientists need to write more clearly, efficiently, and easily."—Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin
"Economic equality is one of today's most overrated ideas, and Harry G. Frankfurt's highly compelling book explains exactly why."—Tyler Cowen, author of Average Is Over
"Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doing well, if not good, by reducing the debate about equality to resentment of large fortunes. He should read Harry G. Frankfurt's new book On Inequality. It is so short (89 pages) that even a peripatetic candidate can read it, and so lucid that he cannot miss its inconvenient point."—George Will
"Relevant, persuasive, and a pleasure to read, this is the sort of philosophy that ought to be more widely available."—Gideon A. Rosen, Princeton University
"Many people who worry about inequality will want to read this wonderful book and will be profoundly influenced by Frankfurt's clear and forceful arguments. In part, he argues that if we are preoccupied with equality rather than with alleviating poverty we will be estranged from our own lives. That insight alone is worth the price of the book."—Richard Robb, Columbia University
"Social justice issues are at the forefront again today, and it's important that we get the goals right. Frankfurt is not alone in arguing that equality is beside the point. But his important book, infused with characteristic insightfulness, is written in such a way that those who need to hear the message might actually listen."—Jason Brennan, Georgetown University