If you’re getting sick of the coverage, don’t worry: After I post my review (coming in a few weeks), I will probably be done with this topic.
In the meantime, Piketty says some interesting things in this interview with Matt Yglesias. For example:
I think what [economists are] doing wrong is that in order to distinguish themselves from other disciplines, in order to look like we all are scientists, they use too much complicated math just for the sake of it.
Math is fine. Math is very cool. But very often, they tend to push for more sophisticated math just to push off other people. It’s an easy way to have the appearance of scientificity. For a real mathematician or physicist, the math will not be terribly impressive but it’s enough to impress those economics departments that are less good at math and those social scientists who are less good at math.
When I do sum all these assets and their market value, I do not mean to suggest that this is an adequate summary of everything. I am very much aware that this operation of summing up everything as a single market value of all capital assets and call it K, and this is capital, it’s an incredibly abstract operation.
I think it can be useful for some purpose, as long as we have a critical eye and keep a critical eye on what it means. One should not put too much weight on this abstract operation, and on how much I believe in it.
I certainly do not believe in a model with a single form of capital. The one good model where we produce apples and capital is just a physical accumulation of apples is not an adequate model to describe any society at any period in time.
Inflation has proved to be very useful to reduce the large stocks of public debts that we had in the 20th century. Now the progressive wealth tax, in a way, is the same thing as inflation, but this is sort of a civilized form of inflation.
It’s like inflation, but you can make sure that people with limited wealth would not be hurt, and people with billions would pay more. With inflation you have chaos, in that you don’t actually know who’s going to pay for it.
Very often, not only do you destroy the public debt, but you also destroy the savings accounts of lower and middle class people. I think this is why Europe today, for instance, has a very hard time with inflation.
There is an alternate universe (similar to ours but different in key ways) in which Piketty is a hard-core Misesian.