There are two underlying premises that interweave Thomas Piketty's well-titled book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. First, capitalism is an evil system that should ultimately be done away with, and, second, inequality in wealth (and, to a lesser extent, income) is bad. I put these premises so baldly because he accepts them unthinkingly. The major fault in this almost endless tome is the failure to attempt to prove either premise. Piketty piles Ossa on Pelion in demonstrating statistically that wealth and income are unequal from country to country and within countries, and shows that the current level of inequality is roughly equivalent to that existing immediately prior to World War I. And, based on his two premises, he postulates a number of solutions to eliminate inequality, starting with a world-wide automatic information system that would inform all governments of what assets their citizens hold and where (imagine what some of the kleptocracies of South America and Africa could do with that information), and leading to a global tax on wealth (a mere 15% every year would eliminate public debt in only five or six years - presuming, of course, that legislatures would spend the proceeds only on debt elimination. Piketty's political naiveté is breath-taking, and his knowledge of economic incentives virtually non-existent.
His title is well-chosen since it mimics that of his hero, Karl Marx (quoted almost as often as all other economists he quotes put together), CAPITAL (the English translation of Das Kapital). When I was in England last month, one of the big news stories was that virtually every politician had chosen this book for his summer reading list, but none could actually get through it. Thank goodness.