Picketty on Capital: it’s as bad as you thought it was, maybe worse

In case you missed the interview with Thomas Picketty in last week’s Observer (I did), here’s a taste of his argument:

A writer in theEconomist reported that Piketty’s work fundamentally rewrote 200 years of economic thinking on inequality. In short, the arguments have centred on two poles: the first is a tradition that begins with Karl Marx, who believed that capitalism would self-destruct in the endless pursuit of diminishing profit returns. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the work of Simon Kuznets, who won a Nobel prize in 1971 and who made the case that the inequality gap inevitably grows smaller as economies develop and become sophisticated.

Piketty says that neither of these arguments stand up to the evidence he has accumulated. More to the point, he demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better.

And just in case you haven’t the time or energy to read all 700 pages of Thomas Picketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”, read more of the interview here . (It’s by Andrew Hussey, 13 April 2014).  Will Hutton wrote another summary, and endorsement, in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section (12 April), which you can ready here  Google ‘BBC Newsnight Thomas Picketty’ for great graphs summarising the book in three minutes, and Paxman’s interview with Picketty.

And here is David Harvey’s qualified praise for Picketty: good on the numbers, weak on the theory.  More here 


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