Crooked Timber is having a book event on Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. My contribution is here. A few supplemental bits:
First, I need to point out a problem in my post. I write: “It’s striking, for instance, that the book does not contain a table or figure comparing r and g historically.” But of course, as David Rosnick points out in email, this is not true. There are three figures in chapter 10 that purport to give historical values for r and g. The inadequacy of these figures to bear the weight put on the r > g apparatus is, I think, evident. Why are there no cross-country comparisons? Why the odd periodizations? Why so much emphasis on the data-free values invented for the distant past and future? Perhaps most damningly, what about the fact that r > g is no more true in the increasingly unequal second half of the 20th century than in the increasingly equal first half? But none of that changes the fact that my sentence, as I wrote it, is wrong.
Some people may be interested in other things I’ve written relating to Piketty on this blog over the past couple years:
With respect to the Crooked Timber piece, I should say — should have acknowledged in the post itself — that it all comes out of conversations I’ve been having with Suresh Naidu over the past year or so. Suresh himself has written various things about Piketty; he’s working on a piece now on these same themes of capital, Piketty and the money view that should move the conversation significantly forward.
I should also have pointed out the Real World Economic Review’s superb special issue on Piketty. Jamie Galbraith’s, Merijn Knibbe’s, and Yanis Varoufakis’ contributions made many of the same points I tried to make in the Crooked Timber post. Knibbe’s piece in particular is a tour de force, everyone interested in these debates should read it.
Finally, I should say: I’ve been reading Crooked Timber since it began, in 2003. For a long while I was a regular commenter there, most of that time pseudonymously as Lemuel Pitkin. Now twelve years is a long time in internet time. Not so long in real life but still long enough for me to go back to graduate school, get my PhD and various teaching jobs, and to start this blog. Crooked Timber was probably my main inspiration to try to write in this format. So I can’t deny it, I’m thrilled to finally have a post up there.