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Piketty on inequality

Economics has a best seller. Thomas Piketty’s, “Capital in the 21st Century”. I couldn’t get a copy locally (the book is not available even at such is the demand) but have read a few reviews and watched a video where Piketty presents his ideas that are then analyzed by Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Stephen Durlauf.

One can see this book becoming part of an intellectual fashion.  The core thesis – that inequality is exploding, is non-new but the claim that this reflects trends in inherited wealth and “patrimonial capitalism” is distinctive.   Several commentators have recognized the role of the book in synthesizing various contributions.  Several too have simply acknowledged the skills of the translation from French into English.

The video is:

This is pretty good – particularly the statement by Piketty.  I thought Krugman and Stiglitz lacked the time to deal with the book properly.  Durlauf has some criticisms including a plea for more work on the ethics of redistribution. I agree there is much that can be done here.

Piketty presents the main idea of his book here:

The most useful descriptive book review I found is by Bob Solow in New Republic:

James K. Galbraith also provides a strong review with a critique of policy conclusions at Dissent:

A short summary of the book by Justin Fox is at the HBR blog:

A very brief review of Piketty by Paul Krugman in the NYT:

I thought a feeble (and very brief) review of Piketty was provided by Greg Mankiw who questions whether government has any redistributive role at all. This is feeble in the sense that itv involves a critique of any proposal to improve equity using policy.

Will Hutton provides a brief Guardian review:

Geoffrey Hodgson does the same at the Conversation:

A surprisingly useful set of perspectives by Thomas Palley:

Review in “Foreign Affairs” by Tyler Cohen

Discussion between Justin Vogt and Piketty:

Reading “Capital” in The Economist:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

And one more critical piece from The economist:

Finally Piketty is making general criticisms of the divorce of much economic theorizing from evidence.  Here is a review in Slate:

I’ll update with more material as it comes to hand.  In the meantime I wait until my ordered copy of the book arrives from Amazon.








7 comments to Piketty on inequality

  • There is nothing new under the sun as Tyler Cowen suggests:

    Early Stiglitz as a precursor of Piketty, and the Stiglitz dissertation here (pdf). The associated Econometrica piece is here (pdf).

    Here is a JEL paper surveying the literature on growth and inequality (pdf).

    Most useful yet, there is Bertola’s survey on distribution and growth (pdf).
    You also should go back and read Pasinetti’s old papers from the 1960s. These are old issues people, and there are no simple answers.

    A lot of the current discussion is in fact moving the debate backwards from where it had been decades ago.

    See more at:

  • rog

    So what you are saying Jim Rose is that you haven’t read the book.

  • why would I. Some of us have day jobs.

    do you use book reviews to decide whether to read the book that was reviewed?

  • hc

    Nor have you read the reviews Jim. Stiglits in the interview praises the book. He certainly doesn’t suggest there is nothing new in it. The text you cite is just a cut-and-past from the MR website.

  • Tyler Cowen also commented
    “These are old issues people, and there are no simple answers. A lot of the current discussion is in fact moving the debate backwards from where it had been decades ago.”

    Book reviews serve the same purpose as film reviews as filters for our time? Do you agree?

    Smoking Joe Stiglitz gave Naomi Klein a good review in the NYT so he sets a low bar.

  • rog

    Picketty seems to have taken the English speaking work by storm but is less remarkable in France. The Economist argues that this is because inequality has long been an issue in France.

  • i wrote a critical review from a centre-left position back in May which is on my own web-site above and also on the Global Policy Institute at which I am a Senior Research Fellow.

    Dr Michael Lloyd

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