Thomas Piketty seminar

by Henry Farrell on January 4, 2016

We have finished publishing our seminar on Thomas Piketty. The participants (with links to their responses) are below.

The whole seminar is available on the WWW here.

If you prefer to read the seminar in PDF form, it’s available here.

If you would like the raw LaTeX file for the seminar (e.g. to remix under the Creative Commons license – see the PDF for more), it’s available here.

Finally, if you spot any typos, feel free to let me know in comments!


* Danielle Allen is a professor of government and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Education and Equality in the 21st Century.

* Elizabeth Anderson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. The Politics behind Piketty.

* Kenneth Arrow is the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics at Stanford, and is a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. Which Inequalities Matter and Which Taxes are Appropriate?.

* Chris Bertram is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Bristol. Piketty, Rousseau, and the Desire for Inequality.

* Ann Cudd is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. A critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality.

* Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Piketty, in Three Parts.

* Olivier Godechot is professor of sociology and Co-Director of the Max-Planck Sciences-Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies. Resurgence of Capital or Rise of the Working Rich? On Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century,

* Margaret Levi is the Sara Miller McCune Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. A New Agenda for the Social Sciences.

* JW Mason is an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, CUNY. It’s Bargaining Power All the Way Down.

* Martin O’Neill is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of York. Piketty, Meade and Predistribution.

* John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland. Piketty and the Australian Exception.

* Miriam Ronzoni is a senior lecturer in political theory at the University of Manchester. Where are the Power Relations in Piketty’s Capital?

* Thomas Piketty is Professor of Economics at EHESS and at the Paris School of Economics. Capital, Predistribution and Redistribution.

Capital, Predistribution and Redistribution

by Thomas Piketty on January 4, 2016

In my view, _Capital in the 21st Century_ is primarily a book about the history of the distribution of income and wealth. Thanks to the cumulative efforts of several dozen scholars, we have been able to collect a relatively large historical database on the structure of national income and national wealth and the evolution of income and wealth distributions, covering three centuries and over 20 countries. In effect, we have been extending to a larger scale the pioneering historical data collection work of Simon Kuznets and Tony Atkinson (see Kuznets, 1953, and Atkinson and Harrison, 1978). My first objective in this book is to present this body of historical evidence in a consistent manner, and to try to analyze the many economic, social and political processes that can account for the various evolutions that we observe in the different countries since the Industrial Revolution (see Piketty and Saez, 2014, for a brief summary of some of the main historical facts). Another important objective is to draw lessons for the future and for the optimal regulation and taxation of capital and property relations. I stress from the beginning that we have too little historical data at our disposal to be able to draw definitive judgments. On the other hand, at least we have substantially more evidence than we used to. Imperfect as it is, I hope this work can contribute to put the study of distribution and of the long run back at the center of economic thinking.

In this essay, I seek to discuss a number of implications of my findings, in particular regarding the optimal regulation of capital and the complementarity between the “predistribution” and the “redistribution” approach. I will also attempt to address some of the very valuable comments made by the participants to the Crooked Timber symposium. First, I will clarify the role played by r>g in my analysis of wealth inequality. Next, I will present some of the implications for optimal taxation, starting with inheritance taxation and then moving with annual taxation of wealth, capital income and consumption. Finally, I will emphasize the need to develop a multi-sector approach to capital accumulation. This will lead me to stress the limits of capital taxation and the complementarity with other public policies aimed at regulating the accumulation and distribution of capital (such as land use, housing policies, intellectual property rights, co-determination and participatory governance). [click to continue…]