This is not some scholarly treatise written for academic/professional colleagues. It’s written for the layperson in a style that’s casual and engaging. Through a kind of Socratic dialogue between our two authors, their conversational format lets them tease out ideas in a back and forth exchange, whilst inviting the reader to reach their own conclusions.
But Angrynomics is not merely a diagnosis of the problem. There have already been a lot of those. Its authors also suggest a number of innovative ways to cure the illness that go beyond the time-honoured leftist solutions of wealth taxes and nationalisation. Neither of these would work in the modern age, Lonergan and Blyth argue, if only because they would fail to command anywhere near the necessary political support. The wealthy are also very good at avoiding taxes. In any case, there seems little point in going back to the tried, tested and failed methods of the past.
This is why this compelling and challenging book needs to be read — even if more than a few readers will question its radical prognosis. Some may struggle with the assumption, common among left-wing writers, that while public anger over a broken economy is legitimate, public anger over a broken cultureis not.
More than 30 years of research has shown that people who switch to populist leaders are both economically and culturally insecure; they worry just as much about borders and identity as jobs and wages. Dismissing all of this, as the authors do, as the work of manipulative elites is a bit of a stretch. There are legitimate concerns here, too, that need to be unpacked and addressed.
Focusing on our economic choices, and, specifically, on inequality, offers a road map out of the morass: keep it simple, make a difference and cut across political lines. Their biggest idea is to create a national wealth fund. Real negative interest rates are the equivalent of discovering oil. When the cost of borrowing is lower than GDP growth, governments should issue bonds and invest in diverse assets, much as sovereign wealth funds do. The gains over time should be distributed to people as investment trusts that can be used for education and health.