Thomas Piketty: Capital in the twenty-first century


Piketty presents himself as politically engagé, so it would be natural to cut to the chase and announce my view of whether he is a good guy or a bad guy, a comrade or an enemy.  That impulse is all the stronger because his title is a deliberate allusion to Marx’s great work, Das Kapital.  The title, after all, is CAPITAL in the Twenty-First Century, not Capital in the Twenty-First Century.  But I shall resist the temptation, because it would be a mistake.  There is a great deal to learn from this book whether or not one situates oneself where Piketty does on the ideological spectrum [as I do not], and that must be the focus of my attention in the first part of this discussion.

The complete article

Robert Paul Wolff — 3:AM Magazine

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Why Are Economists Giving Inequality the Cold Shoulder?

I’ve long questioned the value of economics as a profession. Most economists focus on the quantitative rather than the lived. They are also consistently unable to explain or predict economic movements. I think the former may lead to the latter. Indeed, in this piece in the Boston Review, the author examines professional economists’ opposition to Thomas Piketty’s focus on inequality:

But perhaps the greatest rebuke of Piketty to be found among academic economics is not contained in any of these overt or veiled attacks on his scholarship and interpretation, but rather in the deafening silence that greets it, as well as inequality in general, in broad swathes of the field—even to this day. You can search through the websites of several leading economics departments or the official lists of working papers curated by federal agencies and not come across a single publication that has any obvious or even secondary bearing on the themes raised by Capital in the Twenty-First Century, even in order to oppose them. It is as though the central facts, controversies, and policy proposals that have consumed our public debate about the economy for three years are of little-to-no importance to the people who are paid and tenured to conduct a lifetime’s research into how the economy works.

Read the full article at The Boston Review

Marshall Steinbaum — Boston Review

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India has a very strong legacy of extreme inequality

A Thomas Piketty interview.

“And what’s unique about India is that it used to publish this data until 2000. There was this All India Income Tax Statistics Report and this has been interrupted. For the past 15 years during this period of very high growth in India, nobody knows how income tax operates, how have top income groups in India done as compared to GDP growth.

When we look at the consumption of average Indians or bottom 50% Indians, we don’t see the kind of GDP growth rates that we have in GDP statistics. The possibility, of course, is that a lot of the growth has gone to top income groups. Is this true? Has the income tax system been able to make this group contribute to the tax burden in proportion to the increase in their income, nobody knows.”

The full interview


Why Inequality Matters

This is Bill Gates’ response to the arguments raised by Thomas Piketty in his book – Capital in the twenty-first century. Gates asks for treating wealthy people in different ways. An excerpt below.

Imagine three types of wealthy people. One guy is putting his capital into building his business. Then there’s a woman who’s giving most of her wealth to charity. A third person is mostly consuming, spending a lot of money on things like a yacht and plane. While it’s true that the wealth of all three people is contributing to inequality, I would argue that the first two are delivering more value to society than the third.

The entire article

The blog of Bill Gates