*Capital and Ideology*, by Thomas Piketty

This book is more than 1000 pp., here are my impressions:

1. About 600 pp. of this book is a carefully done history of the accumulation and sometimes dissipation of wealth and property.  You can evaluate that material without reference to any particular set of political views.

2. At some point the book veers into partisan issues such as the wealth tax.  Many of those parts remain interesting, but it also becomes clear that Piketty is “out to lunch,” to wit (p.591):

To return to the Soviet attitude toward poverty, it is important to try to understand why the government took such a radical stance against all forms of private ownership of the means of production, no matter how small.  Criminalizing carters and food peddlers to the point of incarcerating them may seem absurd, but there was a certain logic to the policy.  Most important was the fear of not knowing where to stop.  If one began by authorizing private ownership of small businesses, would one be able to set limits?

I can think of a less naive explanation of Soviet attitudes toward the private sector.  Piketty also calls for “participatory socialism” (p.592), a dubious doctrine not to be confused with say Nordic social democracy.  For instance, Sweden (among other countries) seems to have fairly extreme wealth inequality.

3. The sentence “Real wages are much higher in America than in Western Europe” does not come easily to his pen.  Nor does “The United States is a remarkably successful innovator, let’s see what we can learn from that.”  Or even “Raising wages is more important than merely limiting inequality.”  Those seems to be banished thoughts in the Piketty intellectual universe.

4. The sections on Soviet and socialist experience can only be called “delusional.”  In his account, if only a few political decisions had gone the other way, the USSR might have ended up on a path similar to that of Norway (p.603 and thereabouts).

You know, maybe you think that the inequalities of the current day are much worse than people had been expecting.  but that should not revise your view of socialism and the Soviet Union, two matters fairly well settled by historical research.

5. Give these lenses, it is impossible for Piketty to offer any commentary on recent events (about the last 400 pp. of the book) that is anything other than distorted and unreliable.  There is massive distrust of the wealthy in this book, and virtually no distrust of concentrated state power.

6. There is a considerable sum of useful and valuable material in this book, and I would not try to dissuade anyone inclined from reading it.  Nonetheless I suspect its main import is as another sign of the growing compartmentalization of academic discourse — good work intermingled with highly questionable partisan material — and how so many academics, if the mood affiliation tilts in the right direction, will tolerate or even encourage that.

You can pre-order the book here.


5. Give these lenses, it is impossible for Piketty to offer any commentary on recent events (about the last 400 pp. of the book) that is anything other than distorted and unreliable. There is massive distrust of the wealthy in this book, and virtually no distrust of concentrated state power.

You'd probably get a similar attitude from frequent collaborator Emmanuel Saez on this. The most generous possible interpretation is that they view any sort of "over-mighty" individual as a threat to democratic government, but they only apply that to the privately wealthy.

"they view any sort of "over-mighty" individual as a threat to democratic government, but they only apply that to the privately wealthy."

This is basically Leninism. LIterally.

Here is proof that Keynes (I'm not a fan) was wrong when he said something to the effect that future historians would be amazed that such a dull and illogical system - Marxian socialism - should have held sway over so many.

The other day was the anniversary of soviet liquidations of five million Kulaks - rich peasants that, say, owned one or two cows (more than their peers) and "resisted" collectivization.

#4 -- The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy is an interesting perspective on this. The Gorbechev era planners were hoping for something closer to current day China; they couldn't do it. Too much investment in obsolete heavy industry, too much corruption, too many centrifugal forces.

It's always bizarre to read current Western enthusiasts for the Soviet system, because contemporary Soviets didn't believe in the system at all. Central planners least of all.

Also, I'm very suspicious of any measure of wealth inequality in the Soviet Union. If you read contemporary accounts of people's lives, what jumps out is that the salaries for different jobs were relatively even, but the benefits associated with different jobs were wildly uneven. Things like apartments, cars, vacation homes, access to commissaries or food, access to shops, access to prestigious schools, and the ability to travel, were very tightly associated with the job you held. Those things didn't necessarily show up in monetary salary, but they had a major effect on the quality of life.

To talk about the Soviet Union in terms of wealth inequality is simply wrong. Privilege (cars, telephones, TVs, etc.) came from being part of the power structure, and was generally decoupled from any actual economic perspective.

A factory manager was also a party member - with party membership being a more important criteria for the position than actual skills. That a factory manager is in an excellent position to enjoy more material benefits remains equally true in Soviet or Western contexts (or in the variety of Asian political forms). The question of wealth inequality is not about the wealth, it is a question of the requirements for achieving such wealth.

The Soviet Union was a totalitarian police state - talking about such a society in terms of wealth inequality goes beyond foolishness. Stalin may be one of the very few modern humans who never touched nor required money for decades of his life, making him extremely poor by most measures. By another measure, Stalin was likely the wealthiest man on the planet during those decades, being the one in complete control of all the resources available to the Soviet state.

+1. This is essential but almost no one really mentions it. If you want to measure inequality in a Soviet style economy you have to measure consumption inequality since wealth accumulation was very difficult to achieve on meagre government salaries. And in terms of consumption party members and party bosses were the Soviet version of robber barons. In terms of modern consumption they were really fighting for scraps (access to an elite education, a better apartment closer to the centre, double the allowance of meat for their family etc) but relative to the rest of the non-party affiliated population, that was a huge leg up. Measuring wealth inequality in these societies is like measuring wealth inequality in the ghetto and concluding that ghetto institutions promote wealth equality.

That is absurd. There was incredible inequality in the Soviet system, the means of exchange wasn't money, it was power and influence within the Communist Party. They didn't dare allow accumulations of money because that would make the currency of the Communist Party worthless.

That there wasn't much to go around is by design as well.

Completely agree that pretty much ANY economic figures to come out of the USSR or really any socialist-bloc country are pretty certain to have been gundecked--just look at what's happening now in China.

But the "equality" of salaries was indeed a thing in the 1960s and 1970s. In Sweden, notoriously, the marginal tax rates were so punitive that--as one author wrote--"...you didn't negotiate compensation, you negotiated lifestyle." Would the company provide you with a company car? A housing allowance? A clothing allowance? How many weeks of paid holidays every year? You get the picture...Indeed some of these pathologies were pervasive here in the US, during the era of 93% marginal rates...one of my classmates' father owned a small business, but he never owned a car: the company paid, and so he didn't have to. And of course--bonus!--the car was expensed or amortized, I forget what the rules were in those times, which was good for the company...

I wonder if they even did as well at literal gulags than China is currently doing.

"To return to the Chicago attitude toward self-defense, it is important to try to understand why the government took such a radical stance against all forms of gun ownership, no matter how small. It was more important to protect the people from themselves than from each other: the individual self is the greatest threat to a homogeneous servant herd."

Thank God we've never had a president who lived in Chicago.

Does Piketty finally have anything to say about how immigration policy impacts inequality?

It seems that the developed countries with the highest percentage of foreign born (Canada, Australia, and Switzerland) also have the lowest wealth inequality: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Forum_IncGrwth_2018.pdf. Lots of fresh blood should keep wealth churning as people with wealth can't just rest on their laurels but face constant new competition.

All 3 countries have merit-based immigration systems (Switzerland does for non-EU immigrants and gives work preference to Swiss nationals over EU immigrants) and do not have much illegal immigration.

The difference is not high (0.07 to 0.15) and there is no evidence migration is causal on that reduction, nor through the mechanism claimed.

How would high levels of immigration "keep wealth churning," exactly? Suppose I have a net worth of $10 million, and I live in a city that takes in maybe 10% new residents who are international immigrants over a decade or so. This forces me to spend money...how?

It wouldn't force you to spend money. Typically though, the rich are looking to make a return on their investments. Having an influx of new, motivated people starting business, will make it more difficult to compete in the open market place.

So confusing - all the liberals keep telling me that immigration benefits all and now this talk of making it more difficult for natives to compete in the open market.
Truly a marvelous wonder of a thought process!

"Bad" Cop Caplan hypothesizes you that migration will raise global welfare.... despite of course raising income and then wealth inequality in any given nation, because of course they will take on particular structural roles in an economy that amplifies the extent of national market division (which of course amplifies differences in compensation).

It's all worth it because of the improvement of global welfare, whatever the costs on intra-country inequality! Appeals to the global citizens.

"Good" Cop Zaua hypothesizes, with far weaker (in fact, no) evidence, that migrants in fact break up established interests and established structural inequalities. Appeals to the national citizens (but really to those that believe in some sort of Euro/White 'Establishment' to be broken up by hardworkingimmigrants).

Whatever the case, both are agreed migration must be good for their desired outcome (and I suspect either would trumpet either depending on the audience).

Of course, we all have desired outcomes here, but it's still funny to point out the contradictory arguments which are leveled in pursuit of some goal, lest some unsuspectingly naive person imagine that there is some consistency to be had here...

Way down upon the Volga River, far far from away, that's where my heart is yearning ever, for those glorious Soviet Days

All up and down the whole creation, sadly I roam.
I'm a still a-longin' for the gulag sequestration, and my soviet home.

Picketty, Saez, and Zucman seem deranged and unreliable. I'm glad Tyler is standing up for the truth.

You forgot to write Truth with a capital T...

What is always fun is to head to sacbee and look at the outrageous amount of money Saez makes from the UC system. I think it was $400K+

It's odd for so many people on the left in the US to hold Scandinavia up as a model when the Scandinavian model seems to generate very high levels of wealth inequality. Sweden's wealth inequality gini index is higher than Russia or China and almost as high as the US: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Forum_IncGrwth_2018.pdf. Denmark and Norway are not far behind either. Some rich countries with lower levels of wealth inequality include Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Seems people on the left should advocate for us to look to those countries as a model instead of Sweden.

I've been glad to taunt the Nordic social democrats by insisting that even a golden cage is a cage, but to compare, or wish to compare, in even the remotest possible terms with the Soviet Union is way more than "out to lunch". It is delusional.

Luxembourg and Switzerland and probably the Netherlands tell you a lot about the madness of measuring "national" wealth inequality as applied to tax havens.

Norway is a nation of 5.5 million with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, due mainly to oil & gas reserves (top 5 in exports of both) which make it the leading per-capita producer outside the Middle East. They are among the top in per capita income, wealth, & GDP. Norway cannot be compared to countries not sitting on huge resources because they can easily afford their generous social welfare benefits. But still, they are not socialist. They regularly show up in the Top 20 of economically free states, often even ahead of the US on the list.

When socialists mention Norway in their argument, it is a clear indicator they are either ignorant or dishonest, or both.

Well, he has a point. https://andrewbatson.com/2015/10/18/marxist-numerology-or-why-seven-workers-are-different-than-eight/ Probably hard-liners in China were promised time and time again that evidently there would be nothing like big private businesses.

Norway does have quite a few state-owned businesses though, right? That's pretty socialist, isn't it? What it doesn't do is have government take over whole industries. The government companies have to compete with private businesses. So maybe that is the key difference.

Equinor is majority state owned, and Statoil, as the name implies, was state owned. Whether Equinor represents the Norwegian government running an entire industry is a matter of debate. One could say much the same about Petrobras, PEMEX, or Aramco. Basically, much of the world's oil industry is in state hands, especially when one considers private ownership of Russian energy companies to be more on paper than in reality.

PDVSA (Venezuela) is another sterling example of the success of state owned and managed oil companies.

Ironically, it used to be, possibly proving the truism that the problem with a state owned company can be traced back to the particular nation, and not the idea of the state owning a company.

Aramco is often held up as an example of the best oil company on the planet, in contrast to PDVSA today. However, starting with nationalisation in 1976, PDSVA was certainly in the same league as Aramco - 'Within 25 years of nationalization, PDVSA would become the largest company in Latin America and the tenth most profitable in the world. In that 25-year span they went from 18 billion barrels to over 80 billion barrels worth of oil reserves, with a similar increase in production capacity.' Today's PDSVA is not your father's PDSVA, but the difference is not due to being state owned, it is due to the state being dramatically changed though a man who considered himself on par with Simon Bolivar.

“ it is due to the state being dramatically changed though a man who considered himself on par with Simon Bolivar.” A man praised lavishly at the time by Bernie Sanders.

You've outed Bernie Sanders as a socialist knucklehead. Thank you for cracking the case!

The Soviet Union basically funded 75 years of communism out of the extraction of natural resources. The money has to come from somewhere.

"Ya know, to turn all this on its modern head, how about applying Cowen's citation of Piketty: "If one began by authorizing private ownership of small businesses, would one be able to set limits?" to Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.

"good work intermingled with highly questionable partisan material"
Tyler Cowan Dec30,2019 Review of "Capital and Ideology" by Thomas Piketty
Funny that is exactly how I feel about Mr Cowan's work.
Now one could take that as I am saying that as if it were a bad thing but I am not. So much of what is on Bloomberg seems done by those playing economists. Your views filtered by platform and preference in comparison seem educated. Hard to be an honest broker of ideas.

"...and how so many academics, if the mood affiliation tilts in the right direction, will tolerate or even encourage that."

I agree. Especially since the Mercatus Center is an endeavor originally funded by the Koch brothers. It is hard to be an honest broker of ideas.

Originally funded or still funded? There can be quite a difference.

The left is reactionary rather than progressive in their thinking on economics. No tweak to socialism like "participatory socialism" will make it any less economically, politically, and morally bankrupt.

Odd that one considers the wealthy and concentrated state power as somehow opposed to each other. Some ideologies are opposed to the wealthy, some aren't. Mussolini's system of government involved concentrated state power, complete opposition to Marxism and was more than accommodating to the wealthy within a corporatist framework.

The useful and valuable baby will get thrown out with the highly questionable partisan bathwater.

Nice post.
"Compartmentalization" might be better expressed as disjunction, like Wayne Booth's described the modernist disjunction. In Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent Booth discussed Bertrand Russell to explain the modernist disjunction. Lots of smarts (high IQ), sometimes rigor, but then irresponsible in treating the most important things, morals and politics.

Everyone views everything through a partisan lens; it's human nature. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a full-time exercise. Donald Trump, surely a deplorable person by any objective measure, is considered by his followers to be an excellent president because, in their view, he has qualities that appeal to them. What qualities? He chooses his enemies well. Piketty doesn't. Doesn't what? Pick his enemies well. At least according to Cowen. My view is that there is nothing wrong with wealth or the wealthy (assuming they come by their wealth lawfully), but concentration of wealth is an economic and hence a potentially social and political problem. That's a view not shared by Cowen. Why is concentration of wealth a problem? History informs us that excessive concentration of wealth correlates with financial and economic instability, which in turn produces social and political instability. Fortunately, a market based economy self-corrects excessive concentration of wealth. Of course, the wealthy don't wish to correct the excessive concentration of wealth, and will go to any length to avoid the correction. Don't believe me? Ask Cowen's Austrian friends. My view is that the market correction to excessive concentration of wealth is much too harsh and unwieldy, so less harsh and unwieldy approaches are preferable. Such as those offered by Piketty. They may not appeal to everyone, but if the alternative is the market correction, I suggest they at least be considered with an open mind. Cowen has expressed admiration for the Austrians, so maybe he prefers the market correction to excessive concentration of wealth.

“ History informs us that excessive concentration of wealth correlates with financial and economic instability, which in turn produces social and political instability. ” A historical example is in order, since this does not seem self-evident for democratic societies.

Isn't this the story of 1929 and 2008? Inequality was pretty stark before both years.

No one views everything through a partisan lens.

That water is wet is not viewed through a partisan lens, nor is the idea that water flows downhill. What is true is that partisans want everything to be viewed through their perspective, which is why partisans become dangerous when they are in a position to enforce their perspective on everyone.

"Most important was the fear of not knowing where to stop. If one began by authorizing private ownership of small businesses, would one be able to set limits?"

That has to be one of the most asinine arguments I've ever come across. For one thing, it rules out compromise of any sort. Here's Edmund Burke...

"The pretended rights of these theorists are all extremes: and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false. The rights of men are in a sort of middle, incapable of definition, but not impossible to be discerned. The rights of men in government are their advantages; and these are often in balances between differences of good; in compromises between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil. Political reason is a computing principle: adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, morally and not metaphysically or mathematically, true moral denominations."

The sentence "life expectancy, infant mortality and other measures of wellbeing are significantly worse in the US than in western Europe" does not come easily to Tyler's pen.

Does this control for demographics and the 13%?
Is life expectency for polish americans worse than for poles living in poland?

"Western Europe"

If you look at a small White American ethnic group, nominal Poles but probably not by now actually even mostly of Polish descent, concentrated mostly in the best performing parts of the US, and contrast it to post-Communist Eastern Europe, well great they do better. But well, wow, big bloody whoop.

(Bonus: US states vs countries, life expectancy https://www.simplyinsurance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/fig-7-life-expectancy-us-states-vs-countries.png).

As Uncle Milty famously said to some Swedish economist, in response to the claim that Sweden had a much lower poverty rate than the US, "Yes, we have very few poor Swedes either.' (I am paraphrasing from memory).

Or to put it more bluntly, a country of 300+ million with a black population and a Mexican/Central American immigrant population, either of which are larger than the entire population of Scandinavia, cannot possibly be intelligently compared to Sweden, a country that has one-twentieth the population of the US and--even more importantly--is demographically monolithic.

If you want to make meaningful comparisons, let's compare ALL of EuroLand--yeah, including all those struggling Mediterranean and impoverished Balkan Massif places--to the US, see what that looks like.

Swedish-Americans live longer than Swedes, etc.

Are three years of declining life expectancy irrelevant as a measure of well-being? That observation being based on this recent JAMA article at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2756187?guestAccessKey=c1202c42-e6b9-4c99-a936-0976a270551f&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=112619

From the abstract - US life expectancy has not kept pace with that of other wealthy countries and is now decreasing.

And from the introduction - Life expectancy at birth, a common measure of a population’s health,1 has decreased in the United States for 3 consecutive years.2 This has attracted recent public attention,3 but the core problem is not new—it has been building since the 1980s.4,5 Although life expectancy in developed countries has increased for much of the past century, US life expectancy began to lose pace with other countries in the 1980s6,7 and, by 1998, had declined to a level below the average life expectancy among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

Well, if there were a way to remove from the statistics, a few tens of millions of illegal immigrants--who, regardless of what else is true about them, have brought their demographics and vital statistics with them--maybe we could make an intelligent comparison.

Fallacy of composition.

He should concentrate on Japan as a country with low income inequality. Contrary to the libertarians it IS possible. No need to be cynical when considering the proposition. You may not care, but to claim it’s impossible (not saying TC necessarily does that here) is equally partisan.

When will we finally do an excel regression of ethnic diversity vis-a-vis income inequality so liberal heads can explode?

Considering that the Russian Federation has a considerably higher ethnic diversity than Western Europe, liberal heads will not explode to see that wealth inequality is much higher in Russia, especially after Putin threw away all the political nonsense he was taught in the KGB.

So far, I've seen zero indication that any liberal has thought out the implications that countries with lower ethnic diversity (like Japan) are more equal than those with higher ethnic diversity (like russia).

But I'm sure somehow putin is hiding all the rational liberals out there who definitely exist.

"He should concentrate on Japan as a country with low income inequality."

Japan isn't a low income inequality country; it's a medium income inequality country.

A truly bad book in my opinion and I liked his Capital. Piketty comes out as a tedious writer who lacks culture, erudition and curiosity. I interpret this book as his best effort at sounding like a true French Intellectual, something he has been craving for for a long time. But the truth is, Piketty is not very a subtle guy. He totally lacks the "esprit de finesse" required for this.

Interesting fact : Piketty is the father of the pension reform currently pushed by Macron's government, which is causing a massive month long strike in France right now. He proposed it in a book in 2008 with his co-author and student Antoine Bozio. He has of course disavowed it since and pretends to be a fervent opponent of the reform.

A true cheese eating surrender monkey.

Well, the Russian Federation has considerably less ethnic diversity than the Soviet Union. Which also, as per this actual post and what people are discussing, had lower wealth inequality. Thus providing the sort of example designed to make far right heads explode.

Seems like you just might have overlooked the part about Putin rejecting what he learned in the KGB regarding how to keep a society more equal.

Disregarding the fact that you're stupid enough to be unable to respond to the appropriate comment, you are also unable to form a logically non-contradictory sentance. Far right heads cannot explode because of income inequality because the far right has no problem with income inequality.

Then why would you consider Japan better? Obviously, with their lower wealth inequality, they cannot be a far right paradise, can they? It would seem to prove that the Japanese are failures, compared to a truly successful state like Poland, which is almost as ethnically homogenous (depending on how one looks at all the Polish children that resulted from Red Army soldiers raping Polish women in WWII).

And don't worry about logic - no one else does.

In no comment have I stated that Japan was better. I've only commented on the implications of one simple regressions on the manifestation of the cognitive dissonance that people like you try to hide.

See, if you cared about logic (or reading comprehension), I would not have to explain that.

Well, you did write Japan is better than Russia, but really, everyone in the world knows that already.

Boy, when you said you did not care about logic, were you right!

The obsession with russia is interesting still.
I guess it started when it became one of the talking points of the culturally marxist left wing scum calling themselves the democratic party.

Is putin chasing you in your sleep?

One could guess you don't even care about the post you are commenting on, which involves TC mocking Piketty for his fascination with the Soviet Union and its ability to flatten wealth inequality over decades, among other things.

Putin, a man who has clearly rejected the ideology he learned as a KGB officer, provides a ready contrast involving the considerable wealth inequality in today's Russian Federation compared to Gobachev's Soviet Union.

Putin is too busy riding a horse, practicing his karate, and parking money in offshore accounts to bother chasing much of anyone. Unless they are traitors like Litvinenko or Skripal.

So, to answer TLDR style - yes, putin is chasing you in your sleep.

TLDR: nope.

Longer version: he is not only the world's but also my personal savior, at the forefront of making the world a better place for pure whites, while showing off his stunning physique as encouragement.

A worthwhile exercise would be, what do Americans do with their higher real wages? Part of it depends on, who gets the extra real wages, decile by decile? Is it just more medical tests and lots more rich people stuff?

Distribution I cannot totally answer, but high US consumption and real household incomes certainly not drastically eaten up by medical.

See - https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2018/11/19/why-everything-you-know-about-healthcare-is-wrong-in-one-million-charts-a-response-to-noah-smith/

RCA does factor analysis on consumption expenditures across different categories (health, education, transportion, loads of different baskets of goods) and does not find a radically different US composition of consumption.

On distribution, also note some indicators of material well-being (Section 4.3) tends to show lots of "Middle Class stuff" about in US households in general and at high % of total homes, not just "Rich guy stuff" in a few homes.

Total medical cost in USA is more or less proportionate to expect cost based on regression on household incomes and time series data.

“history of the accumulation and sometimes dissipation of wealth and property”
Does his data give any indication of how the 90% less wealthy do while the 10% accumulate wealth and how they do when that wealth is dissipated?

"Most important was the fear of not knowing where to stop."

So don't stop.

"If one began by authorizing private ownership of small businesses, would one be able to set limits?"

Don't set limits.

Does Piketty understand that income redistribution and socialism are different things? Denmark is very different from USSR.

A few different political decisions and Russia could have been different? How about if Czar Nicky had decided to stay out of World War One (which might not ever have happened without Russia's intervention). Would Germany have attacked Russia anyway? Without the war, there would have been no revolution, and Russia might have gone through a typical path for an emerging economy.

Or if Germany had no sent Lenin to Russia on a train, maybe the Communists would not have taken over.

There was nothing inevitable about the USSR, contrary to Marx's deterministic theories of history.

The first Russian Revolution happened in 1905. Nicholas II was a deeply incompetent ruler and sooner or later his regime would have collapsed. Nor was there a viable Romanov heir to continue the monarchy. Though without the upheaval of WWI it's a lot less certain the result would have been Lenin and Communism.

Oh come now. If Kerensky had had an ounce of backbone, Lenin would be a footnote in the history of what likely would have turned out to be a social-democratic Russian Republic.

...How is it possible that there are still people who are unaware that there were TWO Russian "Revolutions," the second of which wasn't a revolution but a military coup ?!?

There were three: the 1905 Revolution, the February (1917) Revolution by which Nicholas was overthrown and the October Revolution by which the Bolsheviks seized power.
Kerensky's regime was dependent on the Bolsheviks to maintain power owing to the unpopulatity of keeping Russia in WWI. Eventually Lenin decided to cut out the middle man and take power directly.

Yes, I take your point about 1905, but at least when I was studying these things, the term "Russian Revolution" referred to the events of 1917-1920 or thereabouts, segueing into the Russian Civil War (1920-1923 or so).

To bracket the Revolution of 1905--as we called it--with the Russian Revolution is like saying that there were TWO American Civil Wars, one in 1861-1865 and one in 1775-1783.

And Nicholas was not "overthrown:" he abdicated in favor of his brother, who immediately abdicated and turned over the government to the Duma, all without a shot being fired.

As to Kerensky, he MADE HIMSELF dependent on the Bolshies by giving them weapons to help "defend" Petrograd during the Kornilovite Uprising: apparently it never occurred to him which might be the more dangerous enemy, a classic case of "no enemies to the Left."

Kerensky's government had no trouble crushing the Bolsheviks during the July Uprising, and he gave them the smack so bad Lenin had to flee to Finland to lick his wounds.

And yes...Kerensky's government became increasingly unpopular as a result of his keeping Russia in the War due to his unwillingness to bail on the Western Allies: that was one of the causes of the Kornilovite Uprising.

Kerensky was never--as you appear to suggest--Lenin's puppet, except in the sense of Conquest's Third Law ("The behavior of organizations can best be understood by assuming they are secretly controlled by a cabal of their worst adversaries.").

So I'll repeat my earlier conclusion--had Kerensky managed to fend off Kornilov--or reach some accommodation with him--without arming the Bolshies, it seems very likely that Russia would have wound up as an agrarian-party dominated, mildly authoritarian sorta-kinda republic similar to Poland or Hungary--only bigger.

If Piketty thinks that a few policy changes could have fixed the USSR, he is truly delusional. People who proposed policy changes were either executed or sent to the Gulag.

The desire to stamp out private enterprise meant killing millions of people.

In the discussions of his previous book what struck me is how he justified the theft of Jewish assets during the war time years. Now he is justifying the Kosher Grocery store attack in Jersey City. Those awful small business people. Kill them!

And if you think this is a step too far, compare Piketty's rhetoric to the justifications for the antisemitic attacks in New York. They are identical.

If all that separates a Norwegian and Soviet trajectory is a free policy decisions, surely it’s reckless to pursue the Norwegian path.

I'm waiting for the Cato Institute to come out with a book picking about all his arguments.

The quotation in #2 is taken from page 707 of the Spanish translation. In the same paragraph, Piketty argues "Así como la ideología propietarista del siglo XIX rechazaba cualquier cuestionamiento de los derechos de propiedad privada adquiridos en el pasado, por miedo a reabrir esa caja de Pandora condujera directamente al caos generalizado, la ideología soviética se niega en el siglo XX a admitir cualquier otra opción que no fuera la propiedad privada [sic] estrictamente estatal, por miedo a que el mínimo intersticio dejado a la propiedad a la propiedad privada terminase por gangrenar el conjunto.* En el fondo, ambas ideologías son víctimas de una forma de sacralización, en un caso de la propiedad privada, en el otro de la propiedad estatal, en las dos del miedo al vacío." (* note 301 in which Piketty refers to a debate in a Spanish town during the Civil War but I think is not relevant to his point).

In English, Piketty claims that the Soviet ideology of denying any opening to private property is the same as the "Propietarista" ideology of the 19th century that denies any review of how legal title was acquired. Both ideologies are afraid of chaos.

Indeed, Piketty has not studied the long history of property law. By claiming on page 707 that absolute private property was a 19th-century ideology he can ignore how much property law had changed since Roman Law until 1800, how much it changed during the 19th century, and how much has continued changing since 1900. The problem, however, is that in the second paragraph of the Introduction (page 11, Spanish translation) claims that the "Propietarista" ideology is still part of the dominant ideology in all societies (Piketty's societies are political jurisdictions-- in page 16, he says "Simplificando, podemos decir que todo régimen desigualitario, toda ideología desigualitaria, reposa sobre una teoría de las fronteras y una teoría de la propiedad").

Piketty wants to explain the history of economic inequality by arguing differences in property law and political jurisdictions. Even assuming that we know the facts about the three main constructions --that is, the extent to which economic inequality has been relevant to individual and collective welfare, property law has conditioned incentives for individual and collective action, and social order has been maintained within a political jurisdiction and among coexisting jurisdictions), I'm still struggling to understand how a result (economic inequality) could be explained by two determinants that --in my view-- are related but randomly. Piketty focuses first on the dominant ideology, defining some failed alternatives that conditioned its history until 1950, and then in the fourth and final part of the book on how the world has changed since 1950 and the prospect of a new ideology (and a happy ending?).

I have no plans to read TP's books, but in response to points 5 and 6 I feel compelled to point out that you recently wrote a book titled "Big Business: A Love Letter..."

“Real wages are much higher in America than in Western Europe”

That is not actually true in some European countries. Real wages per hour in Germany are about 30% higher than in the US. It is true that average real wages AFTER TAX in most European countries are a bit lower (20-25%) than in the US.

"A bit"? I think I'd refer to 25% as "substantial". I'd love to have a 25% pay increase.

And I don't really care about pre-tax income -- I care about what I can actually spend.

Americans work more hours and get bigger paychecks. Tradeoffs. From what I've seen, US is pretty close to parity with Germany on per hour productivity. Lower than France, but that's because they make it illegal for very low productivity people to work.

#6 - This is exactly what Tyler does.

So this is what happens when an economist sees another economist receive more attention? Tyler throws barbs and says it's partisan, when the only thing that makes Piketty partisan to Tyler is the fact that Tyler doesn't agree with Piketty's information.

Get over it, Tyler. Your time has passed. Don't hate on others who have more vibrant ideas that could move the economy towards a sustainable future that lacks the present-day inequality of capitalism.

I know it's hard to understand that so many in America are not doing well economically, especially when you've been sitting alone in your ivory tower and so far removed from the pulse of America. There's a reason Piketty is right and you're wrong -- economics is more than just mathematical models and equations. He gets that, but you don't.

I saw very rare who write such impactful writing about history. Well Done!

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