Thomas Piketty on rising inequality

The publication in English of French economist Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has sparked widespread debate among economists (and others) over the causes and policy implications of rising inequality.

Project Syndicate has published reactions to Piketty’s work. These short columns are posted in English, and most are translated into other languages. Here are links to relevant columns. Without doubt, more columns will appear in the future.

The book’s message – a call to address rising inequality and a plea for stronger economic growth – has strong policy implications. But Pikettism does not require income taxes, so much as wealth taxes.

Harold James, “The Reconstruction of European Politics“, 15 May 2014.

Piketty’s book makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of contemporary inequality. He has identified a serious risk to our society. Policymakers have a responsibility to implement a workable way to insure against it.

Robert J. Shiller, “Inequality Disaster Prevention“, 14 May 2014.

[Piketty] has reignited economists’ interest in the dynamics of wealth and its distribution – a topic that preoccupied classical economists such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx.

Dani Rodrik, “Piketty and the Zeitgeist“, 13 May 2014.

In accepting Piketty’s premise that inequality matters more than growth, one needs to remember that many developing-country citizens rely on rich-country growth to help them escape poverty. The first problem of the twenty-first century remains to help the dire poor in Africa and elsewhere. By all means, the elite 0.1% should pay much more in taxes, but let us not forget that when it comes to reducing global inequality, the capitalist system has had an impressive three decades.

Kenneth Rogoff, “Where Is the Inequality Problem?“, 8 May 2014.

[T]he extraordinary thing about the conservative criticism of Piketty’s book is how little of it has developed any of these arguments, and how much of it has been devoted to a furious denunciation of its author’s analytical abilities, motivation, and even nationality.

J. Bradford DeLong, “The Right’s Piketty Problem“, 30 April 2014.

In his instantly famous book, Thomas Piketty argues that fundamental economic forces are fueling a persistent rise in profits as a share of total income, with the rate of return on capital constantly higher than the rate of economic growth. Moreover, many have observed that if capital is becoming a close substitute for all but very highly skilled labor, while education systems need long adjustment times to supply the new skills in large quantities, much greater wage differentials between highly skilled and all other labor will cause inequality to worsen.

Kemal Dervis, “The Future of Economic Progress“, 15 April 2014.

In a recent book, … the economist Thomas Piketty highlights the phenomenon of “meritocratic extremism” – the culmination of a century-long passage from the old inequality, characterized by inherited wealth and discreet lifestyles, to the new inequality, with its outsize bonuses and conspicuous consumption.

Robert Skidelsky, “The Wolves of Wall Street“, 21 March 2014.

Piketty argues that our “obsession with growth” merely “serves as an excuse for not doing anything about health, about education, or about redistribution.” And it is an obsession rooted very much in the present. “We forget that for centuries growth was essentially zero,” he writes. “One percent real growth means doubling the size of your economy every 30 or 35 years.”

Alexander Stille, “The Heirs of Inequality“, 23 August 2012.

Via Mark Thoma, here is a reaction from Harvard economist Larry Summers, and Piketty’s response to critics.

Thomas Piketty’s tour de force analysis doesn’t get everything right, but it’s certainly gotten us pondering the right questions.

Lawrence H. Summers, “The Inequality Puzzle“, Democracy 32 (Spring 2014).

In conversation with Nick Pearce and Martin O’Neill, Professor Piketty discusses his acclaimed book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and answers his critics.

Nick Pearce and Martin O’Neill, “Juncture interview: Thomas Piketty on capital, labour, growth and inequality“, Institute for Public Policy Research, 14 May 2014.

Here are earlier TdJ posts on Piketty:

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