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In this sense, rather like Marx, he advances a single-minded interpretation of the market system. Piketty writes from a social democratic perspective, one that is suspicious of free markets and confident that central governments can manage economic affairs in the interests of all.

Are Marx’s ‘Capital’ and Althusser’s ‘Reading Capital’ Still Relevant Today?

His book, ably translated from French by Arthur Goldhammer, bears many features of that ideological perspective, particularly in its focus on the distribution rather than the creation of wealth and in its decidedly negative view of the stock market boom of recent decades.

The popularity of his book is perhaps another sign that established ideas never really die but go in and out of fashion with changing circumstances.

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Liberals, progressives, and social democrats were shocked by the comeback of free-market solutions in the s after they assumed those ideas had been buried once and for all by the Great Depression. In a similar vein, free-market and small-government advocates are now surprised by the return of social democratic doctrines that they assumed had been discredited by the stagflation of the s and the success of low-tax policies in the s and s.

Piketty, to give him his due, has written an impressive book on the distribution of incomes and wealth in Europe and the United States over the past two centuries.

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He, along with Emanuel Saez, a colleague and research collaborator at the University of California, has produced tax records to supplement widely available census data on the subject. Piketty and his colleagues have tracked this information back to for the United States when the income tax amendment was adopted and well back into the nineteenth century for France and other countries where records are available on estates and land values.

No one else has done this kind of careful historical work. Because the actual data on the nineteenth century are sparse, Piketty draws upon the novels of authors such as Jane Austen and Balzac to give the reader a flavor of what life was like under an economic regime in which capital threw off far larger returns than labor—and to suggest that we are rapidly returning to those bad old days. This makes intuitive sense, and to a degree is something of a truism.

The long-term returns on the stock market are said to be around 8 percent per year minus inflation while real growth in GDP in modern economies has averaged around 3 percent per year. In Great Britain in the nineteenth century, government bonds paid 5 percent annual interest, with near zero inflation under the gold standard, while the overall economy expanded at a lesser rate. When such a pattern accumulates over many decades or generations, wealth tends to accrue disproportionately to those who already have it. Financial assets, in addition, gradually claim larger shares of national wealth.

According to Piketty, this is the central dynamic of capitalist systems—and it is one that re-asserts itself whenever governments relax economic controls or reduce taxes on capital, as they have done in recent decades.

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There are two central chapters in the book in which Piketty traces the distribution of wealth and incomes in the United States and Western Europe from late in the nineteenth century to the present day. In the United States in the decades before the Great Depression, the top one percent received around 18 percent of total income and owned about 45 percent of total wealth. Those figures fell to around 10 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in the five decades between and , at which point they started to increase once more.

As of , the top one percent in the U. The patterns are similar in the other Anglo-Saxon countries—Great Britain, Canada, and Australia—but quite different in continental Europe where the wealthiest groups have not been able to reclaim the shares of income and wealth that they enjoyed before World War I.

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The two great wars of the first half of the century, combined with effects of the Great Depression, wiped out capital assets to an unprecedented degree, while progressive taxes enacted during and after World War II as high as 91 percent in the U. Obviously, wars, depressions, and confiscatory taxes are not beneficial to owners of capital.

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Beginning in the s, as tax rates were reduced on incomes and capital gains, especially in the United States and Great Britain, those old patterns began to re-appear. This idea conflicts with the known tendency of wealthy families to disburse their assets over generations and to be replaced at the top by new entrepreneurs and owners of recently created capital. He points instead to cozy and self-serving relationships they establish with their boards of directors. The public domain Charles H.

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    Book Description F. Light rubbing wear to cover, spine and page edges. Very minimal writing or notations in margins not affecting the text.

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    Possible clean ex-library copy, with their stickers and or stamp s. Seller Inventory More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Francois Maspero, Paris, Condition: Good.