Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” is considered by those in a position to judge the merits of a monumental economic treatise, to be the most important economic book of the year, if not the decade.
Recently reviewed by Paul Krugman in the Nw York Times (http://nyti.ms/1iVxxoL) and John Cassidy in the New Yorker (http://nyr.kr/1djCeJ3), Piketty frames astronomic rise in income inequality in primarily political terms. His prognosis of the current situation, if unchecked, is grim: “In this ‘patrimonial society,’ a small group of wealthy rentiers lives lavishly on the fruits of its inherited wealth, and the rest struggle to keep up. For the United States, in particular, this would be a cruel and ironic fate. ‘The egalitarian pioneer ideal has faded into oblivion,’ Piketty writes, ‘and the New World may be on the verge of becoming the Old Europe of the twenty-first century’s globalized economy.’ ”
While Piketty does not view this outcome as inevitable, necessary elements of change would surely involve wealth taxes, whose imposition in this country, at least for now, seems simply a non-starter. Other incremental reform would still necessitate confrontation with globally powerful lobbies.
Putting aside the purely economic interventions, there are psychological and behavioral matters that must be confronted, as well. It is a huge challenge to engage not only our best and brightest, but also the wealthiest amongst us to tackle this enormously complex problem. Like it or not, the super wealthy already wield inordinate political power. Constructive solutions require their commitment to create a world that works for not only our children, but theirs (nyti.ms/OOKK7L).
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