On Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Presentation by Gérard Cornilleau

In 2014, the world of social science publications was marked by the appearance of Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The book’s global success, which is rare for a rather difficult work originally published in French, led to renewed debate on the distribution of wealth and income. Contrary to the widespread view that economic growth diminishes inequality and sooner or later leads to a balanced society with a large middle class (Kuznets’ hypothesis), Thomas Piketty uses long-term historical data, some of it new, to show that the norm is instead a widening gap between the rich and everyone else. Periods of falling inequality appear conversely to be related to accidents of political and social history (war, ideological upheaval, etc.). Therefore, and unless another countervailing accident were to occur, Western society seems doomed to suffer an increasingly severe imbalance in the distribution of wealth. Piketty believes that structural changes in taxation could contain this tendency, which is unsustainable in the long-term. Continue reading “On Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century”

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