BBS Book Thingie: “Capital in the 21st Century” Discussion Week 4 - The Dynamics of the Capital/Income Ratio: The Metamorphoses of Capital

Friday again! Time for me to make my weekly contribution to the Book Club! (Seriously, I gotta find some time-machine closet in which to get some reading done in the 25th through 28th hours of the day.)

Now we’re in Week Four, bringing us to Part Two and Chapter Three. Not at all confusing. See the topic title above for details. As always, try to confine your discussion below to this chapter and any previous ones you find relevant so we’re not spoiled to later plot developments. (Mostly kidding.)

Carry on, folks, whilst I try to catch up this weekend. Love and Macroeconomics to you all!

1 Like

This struck me:

“The advantage of owning things is that one can continue to consume and accumulate without having to work, or at any rate continue to consume and accumulate more than one could produce on one’s own.”

He was speaking about colonial powers owning assets abroad, but it’s equally true for individuals.

The other thing that is interesting (to me at any rate) is being brought face to face with the fact that the period during and after the world wars that form our baseline for economic “normality” is actually totally out of step with all previous trends.


IIRC, Piketty makes much of this - so much economic policy takes a short-term view that doesn’t look back any further than WWII, and just tacitly assumes that growth is a given. He brings some much-needed context and shows how that scope is so very impoverished and restricted.

Kind of seems obvious in retrospect, as if economists are intentionally obtuse in order to serve the status quo…


Well, I just read Chapter 3.

Can’t do much more than echo the earlier comments about how what we consider ‘normal’ seems not to be.

It’s an interesting history lesson, at least.

Might dive straight into the next chapter, kinda feel that going by ‘Parts’ might work better.

1 Like

I’ll have some comments on chapter 4 later today, and I’ll post a line for chapter 5 then (I’m part way through). Or I meant, I just finished up this chapter 3, not 4… ACK!

I think I’m agreeing on going for parts, but given everyone’s schedules, maybe we should go for every 2 weeks, instead of once of a week if we do that?

The last part of this chapter focuses on what he calls the “Ricardian equivalence”, which is about public debt, and how that period of growth in GB and France saw the state carrying debt the whole time. So does public debt make economic growth in part possible, because debt means the state can nudge the private sector along more effectively? He mentions that public debt is owned by a small portion, presumable the top who can afford to buy public debt, and dispropotionately benefit from such? this is 134-35 that I’m talking about.

He also indicates that at a time when the pervailing thought seemed to focus on ending the “liberal consensus” as it’s known, and deregulating the market, that France was going against the grain, and expanding the public sector’s role in the economy… but they eventually got on board, even with a socialist government.

Either way, both countries had a similar trajectory. he indicates the role of “foreign capital” in relation to their empires of the 19th/20th century… Why not a comparision to a country without vast overseas empires (Germany?)or other kinds of empires (US?). Why does he find GB and France to normanative in this case?

And this line, “Every country has its own history, of course, and its own political timetable” (139), is he suggesting there is a logical conclusion that was inevitable after the constant growth?

1 Like

Wasn’t he focusing on GB and France primarily because they had the best available data for analysis?


The US did/does have an empire, it’s just that it had most of a continent to colonise and develop rather than spreading to other continents. Which would make it a comparator with UK and France —but y’all got to keep it all, unlike those nations. Plus the USA had an extensive slave economy for some time, which also means that it can’t be compared directly. Germany also matches with no others (small empire, no slaves). So that leaves UK and France in a similar group. Plus entente cordiale. :wink:

Seems logical to me, anyway. :smile:

1 Like

I just read Chapter 4, shouldn’t @Donald_Petersen have started a thread for that one?

@aeon - I see you were talking about Germany and the U.S., did you already read Ch 4?

I’m about ⅔ through Ch4, but don’t really have anything much to say. He’s being pretty convincing …

Yes, that’s true. Still… I’ll have to think a bit more.

Why yes, he should have! I apologize for the delay!

This topic was automatically closed after 616 days. New replies are no longer allowed.