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The Daily Piketty: Kathy Geier, Michael Bird, and Tim Noah

Kathy Geier rounds up conservative critics:

Kathy Geier: What Piketty’s Conservative Critics Get WrongThe Baffler: "A conservative backlash to Piketty was inevitable...

...the only surprise is that it’s taken so long to develop.... Send in the clowns! Reihan Salam... doesn’t appear to have read a word of the book, but took it upon himself to write about it anyway...cribbing from one of the few less-than-glowing reviews of Piketty on the left, by economist Dean Baker, Salam decides he didn’t like the book because of its 'pessimism.' But he disagrees with Baker’s ideas about policies to fix inequality.... Earlier this week, the economist Branko Milanovic tweeted, “And the award for the stupidest review of Piketty’s book so far goes to... (no surprise there) @WSJ”... Daniel Shuchman.... I didn’t think it was possible to find a more hack-stastic review of Piketty in a major publication than the one by Shuchman. Like Milanovic, I was ready to award the dunce cap to the Journal and call it a day. But then along came Megan McArdle... one of the most extraordinary openings of a book review I have ever read:

I apologize in advance, because I am going to talk about a book that I have not yet read. To be clear, I intend to read Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”...

Okay then! She proceeds to argue vigorously against Piketty’s policy proposal on taxes—although, to repeat, she did not read his arguments in favor of them....

There have been more serious reviews as well.... Kevin Hassett... claims that consumption inequality is not on the rise. Nice try, but no.... Scott Winship claims that... the bottom 90 percent still experienced significant gains.... I’m skeptical.... [And] let’s be real: are we to deduce from Winship-type arguments that conservatives believe that the way to deal with inequality is to increase welfare spending, and make the tax system more fair for low-income earners?...

And Michael Bird surveys worthwhile reviews:

Michael Bird: A revue of reviews - everything you could ever want to read about Piketty's Capital: "You may not have read French Economist Thomas Piketty's...

...near-700 page long Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but there's no need to worry - neither have some of the people who've reviewed it. Below are some of the biggest reviews.... If I've missed one or several that you think should be included, please leave a comment..."

And Timothy Noah adds a good, substantive review:

Tim Noah: The Dead Are Wealthier Than the Living: Capital in the 21st Century: "Patrimonial capitalism—and the landed or urban gentry living off of inherited wealth...

...was dealt a mortal blow by the Great Depression and World Wars. But it’s making a comeback, and the only way to stop it might be a worldwide tax on capital.... To belong to the landed or urban gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries—that is, to possess “books or musical instruments or jewelry or ball gowns”—you needed at least 20 to 30 times the income of the average person, and the most lucrative professions paid only half that. You needed capital, typically in the form of land. And you needed a lot of it.... Consequently, “society” (i.e., the rich) consisted almost entirely of rentiers living off inherited wealth.... Like most public-policy books, Capital is more satisfying in its diagnoses than in its prescriptions.... It’s always dangerous to project current trends into the future, but here’s one extrapolation I’ll subscribe to: predictions about the future will usually prove wrong.... We lack sufficient data to determine how, or whether, capital accumulation goes haywire in the coming years...

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