Ethics & International Affairs Volume 28.4 (Winter 2014): Thomas Piketty’s "Capital" and the Developing World

Dec 16, 2014

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2014), 696 pp., $39.95 cloth.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a tour de force—a compelling and accessible read that presents an eloquent and convincing warning about the future of capitalism. Capitalism, Piketty argues, suffers from an inherent tendency to generate an explosive spiral of increasing inequality of wealth and income. This inegalitarian dynamic of capitalism is not due to textbook failures of capitalist markets (for example, natural monopolies) or failures of economic institutions (such as the failure to regulate these monopolies), but to the way capitalism fundamentally works. Unless the spiral is controlled by far more progressive taxation than is now the norm, the political fallout could undermine the viability of the successful "social state" (p. 471) in the advanced economies, putting the democratic state itself at risk.

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