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Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
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Capital in the Twenty-First Century

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A New York Times #1 Bestseller
An Amazon #1 Bestseller
A Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller
A USA Today Bestseller
A Sunday Times Bestseller
A Guardian Best Book of the 21st Century
Winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Winner of the British Academy Medal
Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award


“It seems safe to say that Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year—and maybe of the decade.”
—Paul Krugman, New York Times

“The book aims to revolutionize the way people think about the economic history of the past two centuries. It may well manage the feat.”
The Economist

“Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an intellectual tour de force, a triumph of economic history over the theoretical, mathematical modeling that has come to dominate the economics profession in recent years.”
—Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post

“Piketty has written an extraordinarily important book…In its scale and sweep it brings us back to the founders of political economy.”
—Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“A sweeping account of rising inequality…Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore.”
—John Cassidy, New Yorker

“Stands a fair chance of becoming the most influential work of economics yet published in our young century. It is the most important study of inequality in over fifty years.”
—Timothy Shenk, The Nation

LanguageEnglish
Release dateAug 14, 2017
ISBN9780674982932
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
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  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Interesting views backed with science Is always an good read.

    This is not a light book to read. In some parts I revisited more than once during my first read through. I listened to from beginning to endit 3 times. It is solid research explaining how or economic system works. I great read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This is a brilliant macroeconomics book. But it's still a book about macroeconomics so that bar is fairly low.Piketty compiles data on capital and income going back decades and for a few countries a few hundred years. What he finds is a trend of growing inequality in both wealth accumulation and income. That inequality was interrupted by WWI and WWII.Obviously, WWI and WWII were a massive destruction of human life. They also eradicated an enormous amount of accumulated capital and dramatically reduced a large inequality that had developed in the early part of the twentieth century.In the twenty-first century, the inequality is growing. Piketty has the data to show it.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I know, I know. I actually read Bowling Alone in its entirety too, and had a similar reaction: you can get a pretty good understanding of his thesis from a good review, and it’s not clear that the details add enough to be worth the full read unless you’re in the field. And why should they? I’m not the first to observe that this is a weird hit, heavy on lists and numbers tracking wealth over the centuries and carefully qualified to make sure we never forget that all the numbers are just estimates that probably undercount just how wealthy the wealthiest 1% in the West are and have been since records have been kept. (The partial exception is the post-WWI and WWII eras when so much wealth at the top had been destroyed that they didn’t get much more than half of total wealth.) Piketty contends that there are various structural reasons that wealth from capital—from owning land, machines, and intellectual property—produces greater pretax returns than labor does in almost all historical circumstances, and therefore the rich will get richer in the absence of aggressively progressive taxation. Or, he occasionally suggests, violent revolution, another way that societies have eventually said “enough!” to overconcentration of wealth. Even though anything that can’t go on forever won’t, he suggests, the richest can soak up so much of a society’s wealth for so long that the rest of us are immiserated, and the existence of a “middle class” is a historical anomaly produced by the great destruction of capital in the world wars—including the destruction involved in decolonization—as well as progressive taxation; now that both of those are over, the ideology of meritocracy is inducing us to ignore massively increasing inequality, now greater in the US than in most other countries and than it has been since records were kept. The twist, such as it is, is that it’s now possible to generate huge fortunes not just from returns on capital but also from what we would call “labor”—athletes and actors, though, generally can’t rise to the highest levels of wealth, though financiers can. The use of novels such as Jane Austen’s to examine what wealth meant in previous periods is fun, but it isn’t exactly a peppy read.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Kind of depressing in that the only way out of the hole that Piketty digs is to enforce a global, democratic progressive wealth tax. The one shinning thing is that Piketty's imagination is limited and the world is infinite in its capacity to change.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    This book is almost 600 pages plus notes. I cannot say that I read it verbatim but did do enough to feel comfortable reviewing it. The basic premise is that capital grows faster than gross domestic product and income and this inevitably leads to a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of those who have capital. This is what is driving the ever increasing inequality gap in the developed countries. Piketty asserts that without some structural changes in taxes etc. we will end up being even more unequal in the future. He gathers data indicating that this has been a problem since the industrial revolution with a break during 1914-1945(2 world wars and the depression) when there was a major destruction of capital. The led to a more egalitarian society, but that changed in 1980 with tax law changes that assisted the wealthy. The book is a challenge and maybe you want to read articles about it to get the gist of it, but if you have the time and inclination, it will certainly add to your economic education.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Everything a non-expert needs to know is in the first chapter, but what a chapter!
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    There's a reason everybody's talking about this book. My economic background is a couple of undergraduate courses (micro- and macroeconomics) and my own reading of Marx, Smith, and Krugman. I found Piketty both readable and compelling. His arguments are evidence-based, not ideologically bound, though certainly "liberal" in their conclusions -- a case I suspect of reality's famously liberal bias ;) I'd like to think conservatives and libertarians could read it, and would argue it on its merits, and I'm certainly open to reading those criticisms -- hoping (against hope) I'll find them as clear, cogent, and similarly supported by verifiable data.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A very interesting book and wonderfully thought provoking. Piketty has gathered an an amazing mass of data on income and wealth across time and countries. He shows that wealth was highly concentrated in Europe before WW1 and is now becoming almost as highly concentrated. While his research and data are without fault, his analysis and remedies are much more debatable. A couple of thoughts:- his main point is that the top 1% own too much and this is bad. He leads you to believe that the top 1% is stable and self perpetuating - the kids of the current 1% inherit and join the 1%. But, and this is a big but, he has no data to support this. If there is churn in the 1% - rags to riches to rags in three generations - then many of his concerns are much less valid.- he uses the French Revolution as background noise - "when the situation is intolerable, the people will rise" sort of thing. But while the top 1% now may have similar percentages of the wealth as then, and the bottom 50% may have almost none of the wealth, the situation of the bottom 50% is vastly different now from 1789. The ordinary person now has access to food, health care and education. They have opportunities that were not available to the peasants in France. I may think it ridiculous that some bozo is a multi billionaire, but I can't see me being moved to revolutionary fervour by it.- his "one big idea" for addressing the problem of an over-concentration of wealth is a progressive tax on capital. Fine idea. Can we start tomorrow? But, as he points out, with the mobility of most capital, this tax can only work with almost universal sharing of banking and financial information. Yeah, right! And, in fact, if such a tax was introduced without universal information sharing, the people who would end up paying most of it would be owners of real estate - the new propertied middle class as he calls them. The ultra rich wouldn't be paying too much in such a tax. As he pointed out in his analysis of the rate of return for the different university endowments, the more money you have, the more money you can make. And, while he didn't say this, it is equally true - the less tax you will pay.Read June 2015
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Piketty gives a very convincing overview of the distribution of capital over the past few hunderd years. This book is mainly based on the records of France and England, but he makes it plausable that the same holds for all other countries. The book is well documented and the buildup is very logical. He uses a lot of word to make his point, but this is done in a clear language so the message is clear. His recommendations I found less convincing. I had expected a more solid advice for politics.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    Wow. My three semesters of college Economics were wasted.

    Politicians worldwide should read and implementing his recommendations. Otherwise the endless cycles of boom and bust that plagued the 19th and early 20th centuries will plague this century.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    This book deserves all the attention it has received, and also deserves the time and mental energy that a careful reading entails. First, the book deals a massive blow to the theory of free-market capitalism that has become a core belief of the capitalist elite, and of much of the economics profession. Secondly, it provides a straightforward theory of how capitalism really works. And thirdly, it proposes solutions to the rising inequality that stems from that process. Those solutions don't look politically possible now, but as the author emphasizes, economic developments have political consequences. Moreover, the point isn't really the precise remedies that Piketty proposes, but the fact that he opens the discussion.The idea of free market capitalism, over the past half century, has grown from a collection of theories espoused by Adam Smith et al into an economic and political ideology, reinforced by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and supported by the economic elite whose interests it has served. The idea that capitalism ultimately benefits all participants -- that "a rising tide lifts all boats" -- is a powerful one that has been accepted by many people whose boats remain unlifted. Much of that reflects that, in the US and Europe, almost everyone between 50 and 70 did grow up in a world where the tide did rise, and most boats rose with it, with income inequality falling drastically compared to pre-war levels. That improvement is very widely assumed to be the result of a capitalist economic system. This is the central "fact" that Piketty demolishes, showing that the 1945-75 period (the thirty glorious years, for the French) reflected economic recovery from the war and political decisions that levelled income distribution. Rather than the thirty glorious years being the base state, Piketty argues, they were an aberration from the underlying pattern of capitalism, which is that income inequality -- and far more important, wealth inequality -- tends to grow strongly over time. Most of the book is about the data that he uses to arrive at this conclusion, data that were NOT easy to obtain. Indeed, Piketty's achievement in constructing his data base is just as important as his conclusion. Heretofore, we have been discussing inequality almost exclusively as an income phenomenon: what Piketty brings into the discussion is the question of wealth. Not only does he bring it in, he makes it possible to measure it. (Note: most of the reasonable criticism of Piketty so far -- I don't think that yelling Markist! is reasonable criticism -- has focussed on the data. Piketty, in the book, warns over and over of possible data weaknesses, and has made his data available on line. There will be problems, there are always problems with data. But disagreeing with a few data assumptions does not invalidate the argument). Based on this data, Piketty arrives at his central argument -- that when the rate of return on capital (very broadly defined) exceeds the growth of national income, when r is greater than g, wealth will become more concentrated. In the 50's and 60's, when economies were speeding ahead at 3-5% based on recovery from the war (and from the Depression) and when inflation was low, r was not necessarily greater than g. Since then, however, growth in the advanced countries has slowed sharply, while the return on capital has remained at 5% or better. The result is an increasing concentration of wealth, and Piketty sees no reason why this should change (The US has a special aspect which Piketty examines -- the dramatic increase in income inequality, as high-end wages have soared relative to average wages. This is of interest, but the key point remain r>gTo deal with this, Piketty proposes an international, progressive tax on wealth. That looks improbable at present, but, as he notes, a meaningful income tax looked pretty improbable a century ago. I don't think, however, that Piketty's proposed solution is critical -- what matters is the discussion he has brought to the fore. The essential point is that the state (really a group of states( is the only entity that can offset the concentration of wealth implicit in modern capitalism. Destroying capitalism doesn't work: consider the Soviet Union. But its benefits can be spread more widely by political means (taxes) while leaving the economic motor in place. Ultrahigh taxes, remember, do not seem to have deadened entrepreneurship from 1950 to 1975. This is not light reading, though it is remarkably free of economic jargon (as a former economist, I am an expert on that topic). But it is well worth the time and effort it demands. It is already playing a major role in the discussion on inequality and its political ramifications, and has certainly changed my thinking on the subject. This is a very major work.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    What's not to like about an economics book that has 52 references to Balzac, except that it only has 12 references to Solow.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    Clearly an economists or one of a similar ilks wet dream, but for me way too much like reading a math book. May need to try again in small chunks.