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... Even where capital accumulation is concerned, I am not sure that Piketty's theory emphasizes the right aspects. Looking to the future, my guess is that the main story connecting capital accumulation and inequality will not be Piketty's tale of amassing fortunes. It will be the devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and the like for those who perform routine tasks. Already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead.

Where does this leave policy?

Piketty's argument is that a tendency toward wealth accumulation and concentration is an inevitable byproduct of the workings of the capitalist system. From his perspective, differences between capitalism as practiced in the English-speaking world and in continental Europe are of second order relative to the underlying forces at work. So he is led to far-reaching policy proposals as the principal redress for rising inequality. ...

Thomas Piketty Is Right About the Past and Wrong About the Future
Capital in the 21st Century deserves all of its praise, but it should not serve as gospel on inequality.
The Atlantic

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Fri May 16th, 2014 at 11:42:51 PM EST
I did see that a couple of days ago.

Summers is infuriating. Even when he is partially right (his last paragraph nicely sums up a nice point that I also made in my introduction: this book is highly important as the first word on the issue, not the last. It opens a whole field), he says it with an air of superiority that totally belies an unbelievable combination of sloppiness and bad faith.

When he somewhat refutes Piketty's claims on return on capital by the observation that only 10% of the lists of richest Americans matched up 32 years apart, he reaches Levitt's levels of vacuity. Hello? Over 32 years when people were mostly old in the first list? Ever heard of death? Or of setting up trust funds so your children can take over in due course?

Also, Piketty clearly shows that some 19th century circumnstances have recently come back -and they started coming back in the early 80s, so that the whole period would not have been quite like now. In particular, Piketty keeps saying that his point is before tax.

Of course, he then shows how tax competition between country have now reversed the situation, and capital is taxed less than Labour in many ways. But that was not yet the case in 1980.

Then, saying that the threat is robots and 3D printer in order to dismiss the big problem caused by the advantage of Capital digs towards new depths.
What exactly are robots and 3D printers? Labourers? Or capital?

There are ways in which I think Piketty may be wrong about the future (I am currently writing the next set of notes), and Summers, correctly I think, points out that some of Piketty's claims on the return are about gross rather than net (of deprectiation) return (although he then follows by an apparently erudite discussion that is about a closed economy where Piketty explains that returns can be kept high by the possibility to invest abroad and competition between countries to attract capital), but every correct assertion is lost in the middle of a lot of facile statements that just weren't thought through, and that read as very self-satisfied.

He also seems to include a lot of plausible deniability in his statements, which does not help a clear intellectual argument.

Oh well...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sat May 17th, 2014 at 01:35:23 AM EST
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