Hot off the presses: my review the Piketty book on economic inequality in Washington Monthly magazine

Before I go, I wanted to be sure to alert you to my review of Thomas Piketty’s important new book about economic inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The book covers many fascinating topics that I didn’t have space for in my review, but that I will definitely be returning to in my blogging and writing, here and elsewhere. I won’t say much more about the book, except to note that according to Piketty’s analysis, which I largely agree with, the only realistic shot we have at putting the brakes on inequality lies in imposing significant new taxes on those at the top of the income scale. To the extent there’s consensus within the Democratic Party about addressing inequality, it involves “bottom up” solutions like raising the minimum wage and expanding the EITC. “Top down” solutions that challenge the power of the one percent — such as the tax on wealth Piketty advocates — are anathema to the Robert Rubin wing of the party. Progressives who support such policies will have a real fight on their hands — and that’s before the Republicans even enter into the picture.

Speaking of books on inequality, last week I reviewed another such book for The Nation, where I’ve been guest blogging. The Killing Fields of Inequality is by the eminent Swedish sociologist Goran Therborn; my review can be found here. Therborn’s book makes a nice complement to Piketty’s. While Piketty is strong on the analyzing the causes of economic inequality and tracing its history, Therborn powerfully documents its social consequences and moral implications. Read them together and you’ll gain quite an education about the subject — although you may lose your peace of mind in the bargain.

Kathleen Geier

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee