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From my review of Thomas Piketty in Taki’s Magazine:

One of the surprises in Thomas Piketty’s best seller Capital in the Twenty-First Century is how grating the Frenchman’s prose style turns out to be.

Granted, Piketty has valid reasons for being perpetually outraged at his fellow economists’ ignorance and cupidity. … So Piketty’s peevishness is hardly unreasonable. But across 685 pages his irritability and arrogance start to sound like a 2002 Jonah Goldberg parody of Gallic intellectual stridency (perhaps mixed with Teutonic pedantry). To pick an example at random, on p. 85 Piketty dismisses some dubious bit of Information Age hype with his characteristic overkill:

“The plain fact is that this argument is often used to justify extreme inequalities and to defend the privileges of the winners without much consideration for the losers, much less for the facts, and without any real effort to verify whether this convenient principle can actually explain the changes we observe. I will come back to this point.”

You will, Thomas, you will.

The rare occasions when Piketty attempts to sound modest are comic in their insincerity and didacticism:

“To be frank, I know virtually nothing about exactly how Carlos Slim or Bill Gates became rich, and I am quite incapable of assessing their relative merits. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Bill Gates also profited from a virtual monopoly on operating systems …”

(By the way, Piketty appears to believe that Slim, who is the second largest shareholder of the New York Times, is a victim of “Western ethnocentrism.”)

Read the whole thing there.

 
• Tags: Books 
10 Comments to "Piketty's Prose"
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  1. peterike says:

    To be frank, I know virtually nothing about exactly how Carlos Slim or Bill Gates became rich

    Wow.

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  2. Prudhomme said that behind every great fortune is a crime.
    He of course knew nothing of the Clinton fortune.

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  3. “Bill Gates also profited from a virtual monopoly on operating systems …”
    And a semi monopoly on virtual operating systems

    Read More

  4. To be frank, I know virtually nothing about exactly how Carlos Slim or Bill Gates became rich

    Would it be that hard to learn?
    I understand that there would be a cascading effect involved, where more and more billionaires would fall into the mix, but isn’t it worthwhile to look at how the uber-rich earned their money? Here’s two examples of men who made their fortunes off of monopolies (or monopoly-type systems). Is this generalizable to most billionaires? Isn’t this question worth pursuing when you’re writing a book on inequality?
    Seems like a lazy position to take.

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  5. Boomstick says:

    “but isn’t it worthwhile to look at how the uber-rich earned their money?”

    Particularly since much of his argument rests on the very wealthy being that way because of inherited wealth, and a safe 5% return on assets that exceeds the growth rate of the economy as a whole.

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  6. SFG says:

    He’s still right about r and g. You’re right about immigration. These are two pieces of the puzzle.

    I don’t know why you’re so miffed at him. He’s a lefty, he’s not going to mention that, it’s an even bigger hot button in France than it is here. His book is a useful weapon against the elites…since, as many of your commenters have noted, our concentration of wealth is one of the things that lets Adelson and his buddies pay congressmen to ignore their constituents’ views on immigration.

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  7. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Sailer,

    Your Taki post on Piketty made the links page at Naked Capitalism (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/06/links-61914.html) but with a proviso, viz.:

    >>A Blind Spot Full of Billionaires Taki’s Magazine. On Piketty. Natalie recommended this despite “prejudice against author”.<<

    Read More
  8. ATBOTL says:

    I’m not sure why Steve is so down on Piketty. This is the book that everyone with a brain has been waiting for, a systematic explanation of how neoliberalism has failed to produce the prosperity that its champions promised. Maybe he’s wrong about some details, but what matters is that the monolithic support for current economic order amongst the establishment has now started to crack.

    I get the sense that the even a baby boomer as aware as Steve is underestimating the populist rage building among younger Americans. It’s going to explode at some point.

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  9. Much of the growth in wealth concentration in the USA can be explained by trickle up effects from loose immigration policies-along with bad trade deals and changes to us tax policies. Much of the GDP increases since 1980 we have seen got capitalized into higher real estate prices( like Henry George predicted in the 1800′s, and now Matt Rognlie at MIT is showing). Land is far more concentrated than income to wealth concentration increases that way. http://fortune.com/2015/04/06/inequality-piketty/

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