BBS Book Thingie: "Capital in the 21st Century" Discussion Weeks 6 and 7 (Ch.5 & Ch.6) — Capital/Income Ratio and Capital-Labor Split

We seem to be lagging a bit and it’s difficult to find anything to discuss in a book that’s so closely argued. So here are the last 2 weeks chapters in one topic. Let the discussion commence …


Just read Ch 6. Might try to put some words together tomorrow. Looking forward to moving on to Part 3, though.

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General comment.

This book is tying in nicely with the crisis in Greece; I liked the interview with Piketty that @milliefink posted elsewhere that went well with the chapters we’ve been reading.


Dudes… I just finished chapter 6 yesterday. Maybe we hold off a week before we post one for chapter 7?

Comments… chapter 5: In the section where he’s talking about the rebound of asset prices (pages 187-88), I like how he continues to insist on a social component, tied to specific’s societies “notions of property” and how that is expressed through the shaping of policies and regulation.

I still think he downplayed the notion that the US is a colonial power, as it spread west, when he talks about historic changes to foreign investments (191-94) Also, does he gloss over the amount of control that American corporations have on shaping the global economy, even if they may not have large investments in physical, tangible capital? Like how Wal-mart or Apple has shifted the way that China’s industrial sector operates?

What would he come up with, if he more closely compared land and how it’s valued specifically in the US vs. Japan, a country with lots of land, to a country with a premium on land? Do we have comparable land prices in NYC and San Fran compared to, say, Tokyo, but what about the fact that we have tons of land compared to Japan overall (which probably was one of the biggest factors in driving Japanese imperialism during the interwar period)?

But it still seems like it’s another chapter giving us the definitions and language, as well as the historically economic trends that sets us up for a larger critique.

For chapter 6: This seems an important chapter, because it gives us some numbers on how national wealth is divided out, historically speaking.

I like how he points out how the average checking/savings account (low risk investments) can often be negative, in terms of generating some wealth.

On 215, I think he hits on an important question - “Is it useful and just for the owners of capital [we he pointed out can mean private investors or a state] to receive this marginal product as payment for their ownership of property (whehter their own past savings of that of investors) even if they contribute no new work?” So where do you guys think he’s going with this question?

On 219, I like his discussion of how economists are political actors themselves, they aren’t just describing the world around them, objectively, but they see the world, hence write their works, based on their own biases. I don’t think this point can be stressed enough… But his discussion of the Cobb-Douglas hypothesis is interesting. He suggests that they were in part politically motivated to show that the social order, which spread capital and income in a certain manner was “natural” and even harmonious over the long run.

Then he goes to argue (221) that elasticity of freed up capital is (again) not a natural thing, and doesn’t mean an endless supply of novel technological developments at all. There is nothing, also to stop capital from gaining an increasingly large share of the national income, either.

In the section on the illusion of human capital, I liked his discussion of how it’s not just human capital and talent that is driving the expansion of capital. I think that’s what seems to be going on in the mind of the venture capital drive out in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere)…

Last, on 234, he warning about “caprices of technology” is on point. while we’ve avoided Marx’s apocalypse, this is true because of various political interventions that took heed or saw what marx indicated might happen, by “balancing capital accumulation”.

So far, so good.


That would be fine for me. I’m trying to write a rather large and boring report, so I’ll be behind anyway.

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Sounds good… any general comments for my comments are welcome when you’re report is done!

IIRC, this is part of a major point in the book; ie most of his colleagues are fuckwits.

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I’m getting that sense. I think, there is this notion that these things are some what historical forces that we can only study and describe, not shape. Almost to the point of being scientific laws. But going back to Smith, Marx, and then 20th century folks like Polyani, and here with Piketty, these are social constructions, which means they, even if they are so huge, massive, and unwieldy, can be changed, because, as Piketty points out, they have been changed before. I get the sense he’s going to say, we can do so again, and we need to lest we prove Uncle Karl correct…



Are we still reading this?

I’m totally lost with where we should be. I read chapter 7 last night.

To be honest, it’s a bit of a slog. Not because I have any problem with what Piketty is writing, but because I am getting fed up with the constant repetition. He’s still going on about Balzac and Austen. Hasn’t he covered this already? This book is twice as long as it needs to be. I don’t need the “previously on…” and “coming up next…” bits at all.

He does make some good points (again) about inequality, and I did like the separation of labor and capital, and discussion of various ways of describing the equality.


I think we might need to go back to fiction after this. It appears to be too hard to discuss a major tome of research with hundreds of references by people coming from so many different backgrounds.


I was going to have chap. 7 read by the end of this weekend so I can post some thoughts.

Still on Chapter 6. I have writers block and my report is going really slowly.

Plus, there’s a pre-ordered copy of The Annihilation Score tempting me from the shelf. If I touch it, there’ll be no more writing or Capital today …

Edit: Sudden inspiration and the writing was done and time to read Chapter 6.


Hopefully Ch7 has something more to talk about. I can’t find anything to discuss or disagree with in Ch 5 and 6 …

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Why is she blowing bubbles through a straw into a glass of nice red wine?

It’s a young Bordeaux.


Classier than using a decanter.

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In case you want a straight answer, people who have bleached their teeth or otherwise want to keep them as white as possible will drink staining liquids such as coffee, tea, and wine through a straw.

Amazingly, that is a thing.


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