Finished Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty!

June 14, 2014

Finished Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

I am pleased to report that today I finished the new Piketty Book. Along with it, I also finished re-reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and am now into Balzac’s Pere Goriot, which books Piketty and many other scholars concerned with rising inequality recommend reading, since they paint the real and graphic dismal picture of extreme inequality and misery for the lower classes as existed in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe–where we may well be headed in the twenty-first century.

Having read a number of reviews of the Piketty book, I am doubtful that many have yet finished reading the 577 pages (not counting the index, etc). I see much to suggest many relied on someone else, which often results in misstatement.  For example, there are hundreds of instances in this book where Piketty reminds his audience that his view is based on his own analysis of data (tons of it) and that he has been forced to make some assumptions where the data was insufficient, and that therefore, there can be others who would not agree with his assumptions or his conclusion. He regularly describes alternate scenarios around a number of interpretations, and explains carefully why he thinks his proposals are probably (but not certainly) the most dependable. So, when his results are described as just his view and possibly wrong, I have been hoping to see a recognition that he acknowledges that in his book, and an explanation of the support for an alternate view. I’m not seeing much of recognition, and even less of an alternate explanation with compelling defense.

A frequent example is that some critics have been so cavalier as to say the wealth tax prescription is impractical, politically infeasible in today’s world, as if they were offering a profound criticism. But this is a clear indication they have not read the book, or simply do not choose to acknowledge that Piketty himself says this many times in the book. But he explains carefully why he feels strongly that it is nevertheless worth proposing and discussing–and in my opinion, it certainly is.

This is a fabulous book, full of well documented analysis, loaded with insights that explain our past, easy to read, and so broad as to look at the widest possible array of considerations, which other books on inequality (I have read quite a few) do not undertake to examine. I will be surprised if Piketty is not the recipient of the Nobel Prize for this work. I cannot recommend it too highly to all to read. If you have any concern for the economic and social stability and sustainability of the US and of the planet, you should read this book.

I will now set about to more slowly read it again, study, read more reviews, and try to understand better a few of the economic debates which surround its key principles.

Various elements of this book will be the subject of quite a few future posts on this nascent blog, as I seek to fully digest this commendable study.

My hat’s off to Thomas Piketty and the group of scholars who assisted him!

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