Twaddle or Scholarship?

6736Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has drawn raves from the many uncritical pundits and academics on the left. For the meddlers, the book is about the ‘right’ topic, inequality, at the right time. Never mind that the question is wrong (here, here, and here).  Hunter Lewis and Peter Klein in recent Mises dailies have effectively illustrated the foundational weakness of the work (here, and here).

The Economist has recently joined the discussion with a short review in is Capitalism and its critics” column of May 3-9 (pp 12-14) and gets the basic flaws mostly right.

Some highlights:

Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster book is a great piece of scholarship, but a poor guide to policy [While the latter is correct, the former is debatable at best].

But if Mr Piketty does set the tone of debate on inequality, the world will be the poorer for it.

Here “Capital” drifts to the left and loses credibility. Mr Piketty asserts rather than explains why tempering wealth concentration should be the priority (as opposed to, say, boosting growth). He barely acknowledges any trade-offs or costs to his redistributionist agenda.

Mr Piketty’s focus on soaking the rich smacks of socialist ideology, not scholarship [emphasis added]. That may explain why “Capital” is a bestseller. But it is a poor blueprint for action.

Note by the end of the review, the Economist, has effectively retracted its initial praise of Piketty’s scholarship. Because the book has taken on such importance, it is important that serious scholars should continue to address, critique, and correct many false impressions embedded in the book. The work is better described as dangerous twaddle or balderdash not insightful scholarship with useful policy prescriptions.

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