Chrystia Freeland on Inequality

5 11 2015

Canada’s new minister of International Trade is Chrystia Freeland, a Harvard and Oxford graduate, former Bloomberg executive, and author. (see here) In 2013 she gave a TED talk in Scotland based on her book on increasing inequality, The talk is nuanced, thoughtful, and contains some insights that people across the political spectrum will agree with. Note how Freeland offers olive branches to both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street here. ¬†Freeland distinguishes the various causes (technological and political) of rising (within-country) inequality. ¬†She is obviously a superb communicator and is capable of explaining complex trends to a mass audience. Much like the book on which it is based, the talk is long on diagnosis/description and short on cure/prescription: Freeland does a great job of explaining why rising inequality is a problem and what is causing it but the talk sort of trails off when it comes to proposing solutions. In fact, her talk doesn’t really offer any practical solutions aside from calling for some sort of “New New Deal.” Her talk, and the book it is based on, are therefore reminiscent of the more famous work on inequality by Thomas Piketty, which presents tonnes of evidence about rising inequality and then devotes just a few pages to proposing a solution that isn’t terribly practical.

In any event, her TED talk is worth watching, as are the two following videos, which show, respectively, Freeland’s conversation with her friend Larry Summers at Rotman (very serious) and Freeland’s 2014 appearance on the Bill Maher Show (funny).