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Some reflections on Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital’


Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a six hundred and eighty-five page tome that definitively characterizes the empirical pattern of income and wealth inequality in capitalist economies over the past two hundred and fifty years, and especially over the last one hundred. It also documents the grotesque rise of inequality over the past forty years and ends with a call for restoration of high marginal income tax rates and a global wealth tax.


His book has tapped a nerve and become a phenomenon. In laying a solid blow against inequality, Piketty has also become an accidental controversialist. That is because his book has potential to unintentionally trigger debate over so-called “free market” capitalism. The big question is will that happen?


To get some perspective on its phenomenon status, consider the following. The book (at time of writing this article) is number one on Amazon.com’s best seller list, beating out the likes of Lynn Vincent’s Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back; George Martin’s A Game of Thrones 5-book boxed set; Erlend Blake’s Never Work Again: Work less, Earn More and Live Your Freedom; and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People.


The usually sober Sunday New York Times had a long article accompanied by a sidebar placing Piketty’s book alongside Adam Smith’s (1776) The Wealth of Nations; Thomas Malthus’ (1798) An Essay on the Principle of Population; John Stuart Mill’s (1848) Principles of Political Economy; Karl Marx’s (1867) Das Kapital; and John Maynard Keynes’ (1936) The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. I think it fair to say phenomenon is no exaggeration.

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