(GUA) French economist’s Capital and Ideology expands on themes in Capital in the 21st Century, which sold 2m copies
Six years after being catapulted to fame with a blockbuster about the concentration of wealth, the French economist Thomas Piketty has returned with an epic new book on capitalism.
Abiding by the rule that every bestseller demands a follow-up, Capital and Ideology expands on the themes sketched out in Capital in the 21st Century, which sold 2m copies worldwide after its publication in 2013.
Piketty’s new book – which runs to 1,232 pages and is as long as War and Peace – explores the ideas that have justified inequality down the ages, bemoans the ineffectiveness of the traditional parties of left and right at coming up with solutions for redistributing wealth, and advances his own ideas for making economies fairer. The book is released in France on Thursday but English language readers will have to wait until next March for the translation.
Among the proposals in the book are that employees should have 50% of the seats on company boards; that the voting power of even the largest shareholders should be capped at 10%; much higher taxes on property, rising to 90% for the largest estates; a lump sum capital allocation of €120,000 (just over £107,000) to everyone when they reach 25; and an individualised carbon tax calculated by a personalised card that would track each person’s contribution to global heating.
In an interview with the French weekly news magazine L’Obs, Piketty made no apologies for the impact his ideas would have on the stock market. He said: “[Yes], it will also affect the price of real estate that is crazy in Paris, and it will allow new social groups to become owners and shareholders.”
Capital in the 21st Century, with its references to Jane Austen, proved to be one of the few books on economics to appeal to a mass market. It drew comparisons with John Maynard Keynes’s 1936 book, the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money as its reputation spread during the period of weak growth that followed the financial crisis of a decade ago.
But Piketty’s work has so far proved far more popular with readers than it has with governments. The General Theory was the template for the full-employment policies pursued by most western governments in the decades after the second world war, whereas Piketty’s call for a global wealth tax to counter inequality has not been heeded.