I just read Thomas Piketty’s latest book, A brief history of Equalitthere. It’s the best window into Piketty’s thought to date, in part because it’s, unlike his previous books, thankfully short (244 pages, not including the appendix).
Of course, Piketty’s thinking is very different from mine. Words like supply, demand, comparative advantage and mutual gains from trade are almost entirely absent from his book. Instead, we hear a lot about political power and the exploitation of the weak by the strong. In Piketty’s worldview, the standard undergraduate economics textbook is largely a non-sequential. So is Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations.
This new book claims to summarize key points from the massive volumes that Piketty has written previously. What I found most interesting, therefore, was what was not included. Piketty does not mention “the central contradiction of capitalism”, to use the expression of his book Capital in the 21st century. In that previous book, we were told that r>g leads to an “endless unequal spiral”. For reasons I explained hereI always thought that statement was absurd.
Why is this major theme of the previous book omitted in this new one? Did Piketty tacitly withdraw? It’s hard to say.