Paul Krugman has a beautiful review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I have described Piketty as the hero-economist on a white horse who will finally and I hope irrevocably shut up the neocons and neoliberals who would tell you that the distribution is not a worthy subject of economic analysis. Now, next, if economics would take note of Wilkinson’s epidemiological work on inequality (see this for intro) we might be able to say economics is a noble profession seeking social justice (as some used to think of it) rather than a bunch of whoring cheerleaders for the rich.
Those of us who were young economics professors in 1981 as Ronald Reagan began his program of fraudulent “supply side” tax cuts for the rich (“trickle down economics”) told our students that America was being duped, that it was time for “mourning in America,” that is was not “morning in America.”
by Thomas Piketty, translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer
Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 685 pp., $39.95
Thomas Piketty in his office at the Paris School of Economics, 2013
Thomas Piketty, professor at the Paris School of Economics, isn’t a household name, although that may change with the English-language publication of his magnificent, sweeping meditation on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Yet his influence runs deep. It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work. In particular, he and a few colleagues (notably Anthony Atkinson at Oxford and Emmanuel Saez at Berkeley) have pioneered statistical techniques that make it possible to track the concentration of income and wealth deep into the past—back to the early twentieth century for America and Britain, and all the way to the late eighteenth century for France.