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Ten handy phrases for bluffing on Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’

29 April 2014

71EzL0pAsPL._SL1500_How do you sound clever and au courant in 2014? Easy. You talk knowingly about Capital in the 21st Century, the seminal, magisterial, definitive, landmark, pick-your-coverblurb-adjective book by French academic Thomas Piketty.

It’s all about the growing gap between rich and poor, you see, and inequality is all the rage. No wonder: it’s fun to get all hot under the collar about the ‘mega-rich’ — especially if you’re secretly cushioned by the knowledge that you’ve got a bit tucked away yourself. Piketty (who must himself be making a mint) even topped the bestseller list last week, not bad for a such a big book on such a heavy subject.

But really, who is going to trudge through 700-pages on economic theory? Even the media primers — the ‘everything you need to know about Piketty’ blogposts and review round-ups — can be quite exhausting to read. Here instead is a primer’s primer, ten things to say about Capital in the Twenty-First Century for the average web-surfing neanderthal who has no intention of ever picking up the book.

  1. ‘There’s nothing terribly new about Piketty’s thesis, per se. It’s his data that is groundbreaking.’ Data is the bluffer’s best friend — the trick is to realise that you don’t actually need to know or understand anything. Just talk with confidence about Piketty’s ‘data-sets’ and ‘metrics’ being quite unlike any that have come before.
  2. ‘If the 20th century was essentially about labour and capital, the 21st seems to be about income and wealth.’ Warning: not one for the unconfident. Stare your conversationalist dead in the eye as you say it. At the same time, cover yourself by emphasising ‘essentially’ and “seems’ — so as to show you know such statements are sweeping.
  3. ‘Inequality will be the defining feature of our time.’ Look tense when you say these words, as if you can see trouble ahead.
  4. ‘We are not even talking about the 1 per cent any more but the 0.1 per cent.’ Useful filler. Use in the context of ‘oligarchy’, the ‘super-rich’ and ‘global elites’.
  5. ‘It’s been brilliantly translated.’ If successful, this will suggest you’ve read Capital in both French and English— and throw any other faux experts off their guard.
  6. ‘Anyone who doubts Piketty’s brilliance should look closely at the “technical appendix.’ Piketty has managed to convince the world he is a great polymath. This remark enables you to ride on his coattails.
  7. ‘One slight problem is that Piketty uses “wealth” and “capital” as interchangeable terms — when of course they are not.’ This shows that, while you applaud Piketty’s argument, you can see its flaws. You’ve obviously read other equally important books.
  8. ‘Taxing capital has always been a fault line between left and right’. This establishes your wider understanding and shows you realise the ideological significance of Piketty’s work.
  9. ‘The question we need to ask is not “Is Piketty right?” but “Why do we all think Piketty must be right?” What’s known as an ‘above-the-frayer’. This remark puts you beyond the left-versus-right guff and suggests you’ve been around long enough to have heard it all before.
  10. For advanced bluffers only. Discuss Piketty’s key equation, the one that ‘everyone’ is talking about — ‘r > g’. This translates as ‘return on capital is greater than economic growth’ but don’t worry about that; just remember the r and the g and say something else about them. Try ‘I always thought one couldn’t be so reductive about r, especially in relation to g.’ Then leave the room before anyone can ask what you mean.

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Show comments
  • Josh

    I like this. I have not bought the book, and i don’t plan on it — looks too complicated for me at this moment.

    I find it hard to believe that the tens of thousands who have purchased it on amazon have read very much of it, let alone understood the little they have read.

  • wudyermucuss

    Inequality is natural.
    Could Piketty do a follow up on,er,communism.

  • Mrs.JosephineHyde-Hartley

    Data is fast becoming cupidity’s best friend, with all this information sloshing about.

  • Christopher Gage

    Just read ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ to debunk much of what Piketty drones on about.

    • Kaine

      Friedman seemed to do rather well out of all that government spending he railed against.

      • Nkaplan

        Ad hominem tu quoque?

    • wudyermucuss

      Or know that he supports the French Socialist Party to understand him.

  • The Ghost of Karl Marx, woooo!

    I must say though, it is a very good book.

  • you_kid

    This book *must be* a real cracker given that all unhinged free market lovers are now frantically reviewing it.

    • wudyermucuss

      Not really.
      Dissing capitalism is simply a current trend,(usually accompanied by the wearing of beads,staying in a teepee and the de rigeur African drumming session).
      Piketty merely spotted a winning idea and has,er,cashed in,adding to the problem he seeks to establish and/or address.

  • disqus_AETL809opF

    If you are trying to appear clever and witty with a bluffer’s guide on an academic text don’t make yourself look like a fool by writing:

    “Discuss Piketty’s key equation, the one that ‘everyone’ is talking about — ‘r > g’.”

    Well dear Freddy you need to know ‘r > g’ is NOT an equation; it is an inequality. An equation requires an equals sign (the clue is in the word). You journos get awfully upset about grammar but think it is ok to be so sloppy with the use of mathematical terms.

    All this has told me is that this so called bluffer’s guide has been written by a bluffer who really is clueless.

    There is a delicious irony that Freddy berates the fact that inequality is a major theme of this book (and arguments on the left), but actually misses when it is being discussed when it is actually expressed in an elegant and simple mathematical form such as ‘r > g’

    It is a bit of a flat earth mentality to be arguing there is something wrong with using data to underpin an argument. But hey, this is The Spectator after all. Facts never get in the way of ideology.

  • B Cachia

    There’s no particular reason why return on capital should not exceed economic growth. I’m not even sure that the ratio between them has changed substantially on a worldwide basis, as opposed to within individual countries. In developed countries, capital has had greater opportunities to earn returns as it’s more mobile than people. I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite has happened in developing countries.

  • ohforheavensake

    On the other hand, you could get hold of the book and read it. Go on: it’s very well written- clear and elegant, and beautifully translated. He does miss some things (he’s already said he should have focussed more on political changes in the early-mid 20th Century) but he has put together a very persuasive case, which at the moment has proved impervious to counter-arguments from conservative, neo-classical or neo-liberal economists.

    • Nkaplan

      Well it’s not really economists who need to respond, what is needed is a philosopher to make the case for the irrelevance of equality as a moral consideration. To my mind its irrelevance is patently obvious, but since most people seem deeply confused about this issue it must be one for the philosophers (who deal with – or in the worst cases in – conceptual confusions).

    • MC73

      During the period under review, globalisation, capitalism and free markets have made almost everybody, almost everywhere, better off than their forbears. Even in the US and Western Europe since the GFC, living standards, while down from their all-time high, are better than almost anywhere in the world at any point in history.
      Since the GFC, hundreds of millions of people in the developing world have become better-off as a result of capitalism, free markets and globalisation.

      And yes, at the same time, a tiny fraction of the world’s population has become ridiculously wealthy and their wealth has grown at a far more rapid pace. It matters not a jot.

    • wudyermucuss

      Everyone loves capitalism,including Russians,Chinese,leftists,Marxists…..
      Oh,if they’re honest of course.

  • BettyHSmith

    Piketty is not necessarily saying that capitalism leads to inequality, he is saying that when return on capital outstrips economic growth then this leads to rising inequality.

    • ohforheavensake

      And he’s saying that this is a tendency in capitalist economies, especially at times of low growth.

  • rupertstubbs

    It’s “per se”, not “per say”, by the way. O tempora, o mores…

    • Kaine

      Vox populi, vox canem.

  • Curnonsky

    How about “stale Marxist claptrap garnished with trendy 21st-century pseudoscience”?

    • wudyermucuss

      Piketty donates all his earnings to the shanty towns and his dacha houses upwardly mobile tramps.

  • Iam48

    The author of the piece seems to be under the impression that humour will make the annoying arguments go away.

    • Nkaplan

      Are the critical arguments pesky? Only if you think inequality is problematic – but there is no rational reason to think that.

      • Kaine

        That inequality at the extreme leads to a breakdown of social cohesion and the social contract which is the fundamental basis for wealth and prosperity.

        • B Cachia

          I think you’re confusing inequality with poverty.

          • Kaine

            Poverty is a relative concept.

            • Nkaplan

              Only in the deluded minds of the left millionaires are not poor, whether relative to billionaires or not.

              • Kaine

                Three thousand years ago a man in Mesopotamia living in a tent with a herd of goats and two camels might well be considered rich. Now we would be unlikely to consider him so.

                The fact that the general theory breaks down at the extremes does not invalidate it as an overall metric. If you do not have the resources to participate in society as a member of a gregarious species then you are in poverty.

                • Nkaplan

                  Our standards of what counts as rich change over time, as economic opportunities become better and more resources are available. That a standard fluctuates does not show it is a relative one – the Mesopotamian would have been considered rich not because he had more than others, but because he had a lot by the relevant standard of the day.

                • Kaine

                  Your concluding sentence makes no sense. ‘A lot’ by the standard of the day intrinsically means more than others. If it were the norm it wouldn’t be ‘a lot’. Again, these notions are social constructs, and hence dependent upon shifting conditions. They are, in a word, relative.

                • Nkaplan

                  They are variable not relative.

                  What the criteria for being wealthy are will change over time (especially as economic conditions improve), but that does not mean that the relevant criterion involves a comparison between people at that time I,e, it does not make the definition of wealth a relative one, just a changeable one.

                  If the definition of rich and poor were relative then it would follow that by setting alight to the assets of the rich we would be making the poor richer – as there would be less of a gap between the two. Since nobody can seriously believe that this is the case, the definition cannot be relative.

                  Rather we say a person is poor if they have below a certain minimum threshold of wealth (i.e. where they lack basic necessities etc). What goods we count as necessities varies over time as social and economic conditions improve. The same is true (but in reverse i.e. when someone has over a certain threshold level) for our understanding of being wealthy. Although a standards change, in each case the measure is never a relative one.

                • Kaine

                  Again, you’re taking an entirely materialistic view of wealth without looking at the social context. Wealth translates into power and status within a community, just as poverty is correlated to a lack of power and an exclusion from society. When the peasants storm the castle of the predatory and usurious baron yes, I certainly can see them becoming better off.

                  Simultaneously the man who finds 10 grains of rice is not actually better off than his starving compatriots, because that’s not a sufficient sum to in any way affect the power relationships between them. If he found a storehouse full of food it certainly would. Playing around with the mathematics of zero is fun, but gets us nowhere in reality.

                  The standards of what is rich and what is poor are created by the society itself, not by some objective deity. A person who is rich is rich relative to the society that made that assessment, and the same with poverty. You admit that the markers change, but don’t want to acknowledge the mechanism by which they change.

                • Nkaplan

                  Your post raises some interesting issues which I felt were worth responding to in detail (in part because doing so has helped me to think about these issues – for which thank you), so apologies in advance for the length of this:

                  “Again, you’re taking an entirely materialistic view of wealth without looking at the social context.”

                  What do you mean again? This is the first time this gripe has been raised.

                  “Wealth translates into power and status within a community, just as poverty is correlated to a lack of power and an exclusion from society.”

                  Wealth may very well translate into power (although it need not – plenty of wealthy people have no interest in politics and hence power in its most important sense), but that does not make wealth the same thing as power – as Isaiah Berlin said in his famous essay on liberty “each thing is its own thing and not another thing.” Of course, if wealth ‘translates’ into power it cannot be the same thing as power but merely a means of buying it – as such it is confused to conflate (as you later do) these two independent concepts.

                  However even if wealth was power and poverty was social exclusion then wealth and poverty would not be relative. Whilst one can only have power over others this does not make it relative – being able to influence/ force people to do your will (i.e. power) is not a relative measure, as (although it essentially/ conceptually involves a reference to others) it need not make any comparison between people.

                  Likewise being excluded is not relative but absolute (although of course there are degrees of exclusion). Even if what one is excluded from is society one is not excluded relative to society (which makes no sense), but from it – this is clear and objective, not relative.

                  “Simultaneously the man who finds 10 grains of rice is not actually better off than his starving compatriots, because that’s not a sufficient sum to in any way affect the power relationships between them.”

                  So if he were forced to live off 10 grains of rice a day but somehow found himself able to influence people (perhaps others would do his bidding for just 3 grains of rice?) would he suddenly become opulently wealthy? This seems implausible – you seem to have confused wealth and power.

                  Question: Is it conceptually possible to be powerful and not-wealthy? – I see no reason in principle to think not (although in practice such people may be rare).

                  “The standards of what is rich and what is poor are created by the society itself, not by some objective deity.”

                  As if those were the only two options. But even if they were so what? Just because a standard is ‘created by society’ does not make it a relative concept. The standard of 1 meter was ‘created by society’ but being 1 meter long is not relative – nothing is 1 meter long ‘relative’ to a meter rule, things are 1 meter long and are measured to be such by a meter rule.

                  “A person who is rich is rich relative to the society that made that assessment, and the same with poverty.”

                  Again he is not rich ‘relative’ to that society – he is rich by the measure of that society. If they use an objective measure and non-comparative measure then what is meant by saying he is rich, is not relative. Similarly so if they say something is 1 meter long – it is not 1 meter long ‘relative to that society which measured it as such’ it is one meter long by the relevant standard of measurement in that society. If you said that object was bigger than another (50 cm) object, that would be a relative measure – it is bigger relative to that because ‘bigger’ involves an essential and comparative reference to another item in a way that ‘wealthy’ or ‘poor’ does not/ need not.

                  That this is so for our society can be determined by the fact that nobody using our notion of wealth and poverty would say that the poor are made richer by setting fire to the assets of the rich.

                  “You admit that the markers change, but don’t want to acknowledge the mechanism by which they change.

                  You admit that the markers change, but don’t want to acknowledge the mechanism by which they change.”
                  The mechanism by which the markers change is irrelevant if the measure itself is not comparative but merely variable. What we count as a meter has varied ever so slightly over-time as we have been able to make more precise measurements – this does not make a meter rule a ‘relative measure’ it just means it is a (very slightly) variably one.

        • Nkaplan

          That’s a good reason to think envy is problematic, but not inequality.

          • Kaine

            It’s not simply the envy of the downtrodden, but the terror of falling of those on top.

            • Nkaplan

              So the solution to dealing with (a) the envy of the less well-off (not necessarily poor or downtrodden) and (b) the fear of the more well off that they may fall is:

              (i) To gratify that envy; and
              (ii) To guarantee those fears are realised by stealing wealth through taxation?

              That seems far from the ideal solution to me….

              • Kaine

                You can reduce the size of the gap, ensuring everyone is living in the same society and has a vested interest in its maintenance, and that the benefits of increased productivity and technological advancement are widely distributed.

                Or alternatively you can wait for the cracks to get big enough that something very bad comes out of them.

                Property is, after all a social construct.

                • Nkaplan

                  Or you can ignore the size of the gap on the basis that its irrelevant and introduce policies that will help the worst off become better off, while reminding people that envy does not justify theft or revolution.
                  Property rights are (like all laws) social constructs – that does not make the moral basis for them socially constructed.

                • Kaine

                  Of course the moral basis for property rights is socially constructed. Where else would it come from? Our almost-human ancestors didn’t stumble across it on the savannah.

                  As for reminding people, if the wealthy didn’t choose to go in for such conspicuous consumption they wouldn’t inspire the reaction. But of course that would take away a considerable part of their fun. Personally I think a pop star spending £15,000 on a Wendy-house when a million people are reliant on food banks is cause for social opprobrium, but I suppose that makes me one of the green-eyed monsters eh?

                • Nkaplan

                  And what about the moral basis for laws against murder? Is that socially constructed too because our ancestors didn’t stumble across it on the savannah? (As if that were the test for what was not socially constructed)

                  I don’t know enough about you to know whether or not you’re filled with envy, but given your ‘arguments’ I wouldn’t be surprised. But am I to take it that you spend all your earnings either on necessities or donations to those less fortunate – or is some ‘unnecessary’ expenditure (i.e. yours) ok while other unnecessary expenditure (that of other people) is somehow morally suspect?

                • steven

                  “And what about the moral basis for laws against murder? Is that socially constructed too?”
                  Yes, other societies had/have no such qualms. Doesn’t mean the law is wrong but it IS a social construct.

                • Phill

                  So on the question of whether murder is wrong, it’s a matter of taste? As I seem to gather from your argument.

                • Kaine

                  If you believe there to be an eternal law you have to explain where it comes from. Despite what Mr Jefferson said, his truths are not self-evident.

                • Nkaplan

                  Did he say he believed in an eternal law? Why think things can only be objectively wrong if there is an eternal ‘law’ against them? Can’t their being wrong be grounded in certain facts about human life?

                • Phill

                  You didn’t answer my questions…I’ll repeat it

                  So on the question of whether murder is wrong, it’s a matter of taste? As I seem to gather from your argument.

                • Nkaplan

                  If other societies have no such qualms this makes them morally wrong it doesn’t make morality a social construct.

                • Kaine

                  Says which higher being?

                • Nkaplan

                  Why need a higher being say it? And even if he did what help would that be? Have you heard of the Euthyphro dilemma? Are things good because God says they are, or does he say so because they are?

                • Phill

                  Euthyphro dilemma is a false one. God’s nature is The Good and that this simply determines what goodness is. Therefore, to say “why is God’s nature good?” or “does it create the good or recognize the good?” is to fail to understand the alternative. It is sort of like asking, “Is The Good, good because it creates The Good or because it recognizes The Good?” Well, neither one – The Good is good because it is The Good. It defines what is The Good. It is the standard. God’s nature is definitive of what is good.

                • Charl Adams

                  Which god are we talking about here?The Islam god or Christian god. One says it’s OK to kill the infidel and the other to love your neighbour. Surely this unforgiving god is murderous and the other not. The latter is thus good.

                • Kaine

                  Yes. And I for one think that a more noble pedigree than the idea we were handed the rule from Mount Ararat.

                  Ad hominem tu quoque. What I do or do not do in the context of a capitalist economy has no bearing upon the salience of my argument.

                  I’m saddened that you felt you had no other arguments than personal attacks, sly innuendo and sarcasm. You were doing so well up to now darling.

                • Nkaplan

                  If they are socially constructed why have they any moral force? Can we criticise societies that do not have such rules? If not why may we criticise individuals who reject them within our own society? Moreover why all the complaining about inequality (or anything else) since, objectively speaking, anything goes?

                  Ad hominem perhaps but not tu quoque (and not misplaced -see below) as I did not use it to suggest any of your arguments were wrong (i.e. I didn’t use these ‘arguments’ in any fallacious sense), rather they seem to be a perfectly fair observation given that you asked:

                  “Personally I think a pop star spending £15,000 on a Wendy-house when a million people are reliant on food banks is cause for social opprobrium, but I suppose that makes me one of the green-eyed monsters eh?”

                  If you invite ad hominem don’t then complain like a hurt child when your invitation is gratefully accepted.

      • monty61

        This is the mindset that sees no problem with gated communities stuffed with guns, next to shanty towns, each containing sets of people who feel no connection with the other.

        The converse is a more equal society in which social and economic distance is not nearly so vast (and where the evidence suggests people on the whole are happier and live more easy lives).

        Essentially the American Dream (or con/nightmare depending on your perspective) and a more European approach as represented in Nordic countries.

        Whether the way the latter has been maintained – high welfare spending, high taxation – and whether it can continue in an era of high immigration – is something of another question (though definitely related).

        • Nkaplan

          “This is the mindset that sees no problem with gated communities stuffed with guns, next to shanty towns, each containing sets of people who feel no connection with the other.”

          Not caring about inequality is not the same as not caring about poverty. Of course shanty towns are a problem, but that problem is not dealt with by making sure everyone lives in them (if anything that exacerbates the issue).

          As for the comment about feeling no connection for others, this strikes me as little more than baseless prejudice and sentimental guff. I don’t know about you but I have never felt limited to caring about people only with a comparable income to my own – indeed my sympathy seems to grow larger the further away from me people get on the income scale (in the direction of poverty).

      • rhys

        The argument is not that All and Any Inequality Whatsoever is problematic – but that the grotesque inequalities which UK and America are now suffering from ( where eg the top Directors of powerful companies are ‘earning’ enormous multiples of the shop floor workers’ wages – much much greater multiples than fifty years ago – ; or where now even persons working in middle class jobs in the London area cannot see the day when they will ever afford to get out of their parents’ home or a crowded flatshare because they will NEVER be able to afford the mortgage on a small flat – just examples ) are indeed terribly unjust; and must lead to serious social unrest in due course. Plenty of ‘ rational reasons ‘ to think that.

        • Nkaplan

          There are plenty of rational reasons to think that poverty is a problem. Likewise if people in the middle are unable to afford things they once could afford (like housing – for which blame our planning system not inequality) this is problematic. But there is not a single good reason to think inequality as such is a problem however vast the gap may be – if everyone has enough, and each person has the opportunity to rise on their own merits, how could anyone (save for envy) care that some had more (even a lot more) than others.

          • Kaine

            I assume, since you’re for everyone rising upon their own merits, that you favour a 100% inheritance tax?

            • Nkaplan

              Nope – I like people being able to rise on their own merits, I did not say I like them only to have risen on their own merits and otherwise not at all. I’m in favour of a 0% inheritance tax because I’m also in favour of people being able to do as they wish with their already taxed earnings.

              I assume since you do not believe there is any objective morality you have no objection to this at all….

  • Nkaplan

    That capitalism leads to inequality (something so obvious its barely even worth mentioning) is not an argument against Capitalism, but an obvious reason not to waste time and resources trying to bring about some mythical state of equality.

    • Des Demona

      Piketty is not necessarily saying that capitalism leads to inequality, he is saying that when return on capital outstrips economic growth then this leads to rising inequality.

      • Nkaplan

        That sounds little more than a tautology – I haven’t read the book, but I hope his claims are more substantive than that!

        • Des Demona

          Not really. But it is common sense. Return on capital generally outstrips economic growth – ergo those with capital increase their wealth by a greater margin than those relying simply on economic growth.
          It must be the metrics!

          • Nkaplan

            But since we measure economic growth by measuring total income, then it is true by definition that if returns to capital outstrip economic growth inequality will increase – since it means that one thing will (by definition) be growing faster than others and that just is an increase in inequality. Far from being an interesting conclusion drawn from research this is an empty tautology that could have been derived a priori.

            • Sparky

              The claim is more specific than that. It is that returns to capital actually are exceeding growth and that there is no reason to assume they will stop doing so. If this is true, then the likely outcome is Victorian levels of inequality and the emergence of a new class of wealth hoarding rentiers.

              • Nkaplan

                That is what I had understood he was saying, but Des Demona’s post suggested he was saying something far less substantive than that.

            • Des Demona

              It depends how you measure growth – GDP doesn’t really account for increasing returns on capital in a meaningful way. What he is saying is that those who have or can accumulate capital will continue to soar away leaving those without more and more on the margins of living pay cheque to pay cheque..
              But thus it has always been barring a blip in the middle of the last century.

              • Nkaplan

                That at least is a substantive claim. But the fact that those who have capital will continue to soar away doesn’t show that the rest of us will be left poorer in any absolute sense. If we are not then I don’t see any reason to care about his conclusions.

          • AlfTupperDarlin

            Des Demona: “Return on capital generally outstrips economic growth”

            If it didn’t there wouldn’t be much point in investing the capital.

            Picketty is just another thieving socialist.

            • Des Demona

              Of course. That is not the point being made. What he is saying is that capital accumulates available wealth upwards, leaving those relying on economic growth with insufficient ”wealth” to invest in capital.
              Though given your final comment I don’t know why I’m wasting my time attempting to explain anything to someone with such childish, idiotic views.

    • Hello

      That suggests that capitalism creates inequality which, of course, it does not. Inequality is the natural state of things, capitalism is the most efficient way of spreading the proceeds.

      • Nkaplan

        I agree that people are naturally unequal, but not economically so (economically we all naturally have nothing, which is a form of equality – indeed typically the only form of equality i.e. of misery), Capitalism allows people to translate their natural inequalities into economic inequalities. The relevant question is not whether this is so, but whether it is a problem – the answer, of course, is that it is not.

        • Hello

          Hunters & gatherers traded long before we had any advanced system that regulated the market. The good hunters had more. If modern capitalism is anything, then it is a regulatory environment that establishes property rights. It might protect inequality over a longer timeframe via assets, but it still doesn’t create it. That protection encourages the good hunters to overproduce beyond their own desired consumption level, and that additional production inevitably has to be consumed by those that are poorer.

          • Nkaplan

            I think we largely agree, there is probably just a difference of terminology. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Capitalism allows naturally existing inequalities to be exacerbated? Another way of phrasing it would be to say, as the philosopher Robert Nozick did, “liberty upsets patterns.” Either way I don’t think this is morally (or otherwise) problematic.

        • Matt Ji

          It is a problem because increasing inequality subverts democracy. But only to those who like democracy as it currently is. Personally, I think the oligarchs of the new future Picketty is predicting will buy us the best democracy money can afford :)

      • ohforheavensake

        Except that the book demonstrates that it’s not- except in very specific circumstances.

    • Martin Adamson

      Capitalism does not lead to any more inequality than any other system, but it does give a very obvious tool – monetary value – by which inequality can be measured. In other historic rivals to capitalism – feudalism, mercantalism, communism – inequality was just as central, but was regulated in more or less hidden channels. (for example, having close access to the King, having political connections, belonging to the same regional faction etc)

      • Nkaplan

        That is an interesting point – perhaps capitalism/ market systems in general have generated so much hostility not for causing inequality but because they provided (for the first time) a means to actually measure it, making it more apparent than it had ever previously been.

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