A couple of weeks ago, at a dinner in New York, I asked Joseph Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, if he would grant me a few words for my blog, The Florida Dispatch. Besides being a beacon in the field of Economics, Joe is a great guy, and he agreed.

Laura: Joe, now that we are starting a brand new year, what message would you give my readership? Please make it one phrase, so as not to interrupt your dinner too badly.

He has a very powerful message and answered in four words before the main course had a chance to grow cold:

Joe: Watch out for inequality.

There it is, dear readership. Beware inequality –or as called by some a “dual economy”–, where the very rich and the very poor live together but are abysmally divided. A Simon and Garfunkel song famously says that the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls. That afternoon I discovered that the words of the economists too can be found there. As I took a train downtown and boarded a car brimming with human diversity, I was able to see Joe’s phrase not written, but enacted.

A loud voice boomed “Happy New Year!” imageIt come from someone almost six feet tall and 220 lb, although it was hard to tell, he was so bundled up… The passengers actively ignored this man clearly on the side of the have-nots. Or, more precisely, what he had fit inside a supermarket cart. Many would describe him as a bum. I was still digesting dessert and Joe’s words, so I approached him and thanked him for his good wishes. I asked if I could take a picture of him, for this is an equal opportunity blog. His name was Marty. He pointed out to his cart and explained: “People see this and assume I am asking for money, but I truly felt like wishing you all a good year”. Dear readers, please allow me to convey Marty’s good wishes, along with Joe’s words of wisdom.