Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Capital in the 21st Century (Part I)

So I finally finished Picketty's book. Yup, the one everybody is talking about, most likely without having read more than half of it (case in point: the review published by my admired Paul Krugman in The New York Review of Books, where he bemoans Picketty's lack of attention, when diagnosing the root causes of increasing income inequality in the USA, to the skyrocketing differences in salaries between the top managers and the rest of the labor force, differences which are duly noted and analyzed by the author in the third part of the book).

At a hefty 577 pages, plus 100 more pages of notes, give or take a few, it is a surprisingly light reading (most of the technical discussions, as well as the detailed data he uses, are conveniently parked in a devoted internet site, not to interfere with the brisk pace of the exposition), with a certain insouciance that makes it so more enjoyable. Sometimes the tone is markedly tongue-in-cheek, as when the author discusses the potential alternatives to substantially reduce the high levels of debt that (still recovering from aserious recession) afflict most advanced economies, but that doesn't normally substract from the seriousness (sometimes even eagerness) of the argument, and from the overall validity of the conclussions.

The only minor complain I may raise is the use and abuse of some professorial expressions that (and I do not know to what extent they are a defect of the translation, not having read the original yet), when accumulated in excess (like so many items of capital unduly gained by so many undeserving heirs) can make the reader cringe, as I cringed the third time I found a peremptory "make no mistake: blah blah blah" in so many pages. I may enjoy making my own mistakes, specially if they are so only in the eyes of such a learned economist and astute analyst of the current world tendencies.

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