a whole pile of piketty

Econlog collects a few links:

Bon appetit.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 26, 2014 at 12:02 am

7 Responses

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  1. A couple of comments:

    (1) I enjoyed the Russ Roberts/Thomas Piketty interview, but I was slightly annoyed that Roberts would say “you wrote x, which I disagree with” when really what Piketty said was much more nuanced. E.g. Roberts accused Piketty of trashing Kuznets for his incorrect predictions regarding inequality (Piketty talked about how in some of his writing Kuznets was clear about the dangers of extrapolation, in other writings he did less of that, pp 13-14), Roberts accused Piketty of pushing for more social spending (TP does not think we can count on massive increases in social spending to fix things and argues instead for reconfiguring welfare states to be more efficient, pp. 481-483). It was pretty clear Roberts did not carefully read the book. That’s no crime, it’s a big book! But then you should probably try to limit your disagreements to what Piketty is saying in the interview and not what you think he wrote in his book.

    (2) Regarding Piketty’s comparison of how Gates’ and a Oreal heiress’s fortunes increased at the same rate, Roberts writes at econlog “I presume that her investments often help others beside herself and on this question, Piketty is virtually silent in the book.” I think it is interesting that Roberts just assumes the superiority of market outcomes, whoever gets more deserves it because they “help[ed] others”, even if they got it by inheriting it. I thought Hayek warned libertarians against relying on the idea that free markets produces meritocratic outcomes?



    September 26, 2014 at 2:40 am

  2. @joshtk76: Thanks for the thoughtful note. I too would not blame folks for getting details wrong on this book. Regarding the merit of income, I think you are right and thoughtful libertarian thought tends to be more cautious. Perhaps the best summary is that markets contain both merit based outcomes (work more hours and get more pay) and non-merit based outcomes (you inherit money by luck) but that there are still legitimate reasons to respect both forms of income. Perhaps a stronger version of Robert’s view is that a utilitarian should still approve money that is inherited since it gets pumped into the economy through savings and purchasing goods.



    September 26, 2014 at 3:06 am

  3. Thanks joshtk76 for the comments, and thanks Fabio for the links (although I would disagree on your justification of inheritance, which may apply to any immoral economic activity – money robbed from your grand’ma also goes back into the economy eventually – anyway).

    It happens that my colleague Clement Thery and I have written a paper on the implications of Piketty for sociology and political science (and also orgtheory, featuring Jerry Davis, Brayden King and citations of!). It is available at


    Francois Bonnet

    September 26, 2014 at 12:53 pm

  4. Francois, thanks of the link. I look forward to reading it. Given that sociologists *already* focus on inequality, I am interested in what extra mileage Piketty gives us. Also, even though theft and inheritance are both unearned, that doesn’t mean they should be lumped together.

    Liked by 1 person


    September 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

  5. Fabio, I am not up to speed on the inequality lit, but I thought that Piketty brought a much wider historical and comparative scope than has been done before when analyzing inequality in WEALTH. I am guessing that as far as income is concerned Piketty is not uncovering new trends.



    September 26, 2014 at 7:12 pm

  6. @josh: on empirics, you are clearly correct. Wealth inequality was a huge gap in stratification. At the same time, does the wealth analysis differ so much that it alters what we already knew from income inequality studies? I’ll let non-Piketty’s tell me.



    September 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm

  7. The paper by Francois and Clement (linked above) asks how do social dynamics look different in an r>g world than in a g>r world (which characterized the post-War era in which organization theory grew up, and when many of our still-dominant approaches were hatched). Really interesting and provocative for orgtheorists.



    September 27, 2014 at 2:15 pm

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