Skip to main content

See also:

Five sources on Piketty's book to bring you up to speed

The Royal Palace in Stockholm City, Sweden in an early morning view, October 2012. data on Sweden is used in Piketty's Capital in the Twenty First Century.
The Royal Palace in Stockholm City, Sweden in an early morning view, October 2012. data on Sweden is used in Piketty's Capital in the Twenty First Century.
Wikipedia.org, public domain

So you want to know all about the latest block buster book on economics, Thomas Piketty's, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but you don't have the time right now to read the 600 plus page book. Oh, maybe you intend to read the book, at some point, but you would like to know beforehand what others think of it. Or maybe you want to get the latest about the dispute over some of Piketty's use of the data brought up by Financial Times journalist Chris Giles.

Here are seven sources on the web that you can easily assess that can bring you up to speed.

Robert Solow reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Robert Solow reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Robert Solow reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century

1987 Economics Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow (R) after winning the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on October 11, 2010 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Solow, a Nobel Prize winning economist, has written an in dept review of Thomas Piketty's surprise best seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In some sense, Solow, as an originator of a path breaking theoretical model of economic growth, is the perfect reveiwer of Piketty's treatise on the reality of economic growth across history and countries.

Larry Summers reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Larry Summers reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Larry Summers reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Larry Summers, economist, former Harvard University President, former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and a top advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama reviews Thomas Piketty's attention getting treatise, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Summers, with just maybe a touch of envy, since he has been known to carry a large ego, says of the book, "Piketty has emerged as a rock star of the policy-intellectual world. His book was for a time Amazon’s bestseller. Every pundit has expressed a view on his argument, almost always wildly favorable if the pundit is progressive and harshly critical if the pundit is conservative. Piketty’s tome seems to be drawn on a dozen times for every time it is read."

Roosevelt Institute scholar Mike Konczal writes on Piketty and studying the rich
Roosevelt Institute scholar Mike Konczal writes on Piketty and studying the rich Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Roosevelt Institute scholar Mike Konczal writes on Piketty and studying the rich

Economist and author Thomas Piketty speaks to the Department of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley on April 23, 2014 in Berkeley, California.

Mike Konczal has published in Boston Review a glowing report on Thomas Piketty's recent book. Konczal's review of Capital in the Tweny-First Century is eye catchingly titled "Studying the Rich."

London and Briton figure prominently in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century
London and Briton figure prominently in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century WPA Pool/Getty Images

London and Briton figure prominently in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century

British Prime Minister David Cameron visits a construction site on May 27, 2014 in London, England.

Thomas Piketty's economic treatise, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, on the role of capital and movements in inequality, not all in one direction through history, but more of a "U" shaped curve, he says, relies on historical data from many countries, including England, France and Sweden. He says the concentration of wealth was high and rising in Europe and elsewhere through the 18th and 19th centuries, only to fall during the twentieth, but may be on the rise again.

An editor at the Financial Times says Piketty made mistakes and his data doesn't support the conclusions. Editor, Chris Giles, says "The data underpinning Professor Piketty’s 577-page tome, which has dominated best-seller lists in recent weeks, contain a series of errors that skew his findings."

Paris and France also play a prominent role in the data used by Thomas Piketty
Paris and France also play a prominent role in the data used by Thomas Piketty Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Paris and France also play a prominent role in the data used by Thomas Piketty

France is another major country that figures prominently in the historical and more recent data used by Piketty to conclude that rising concentration of wealth was exhibited in the 18th and 19th centuries, then fell in the Twentieth, but is on the rise again. Finacial Times editor Chris Giles says Piketty made mistakes in the data that renders his conclusions misleading. One criticism of Giles' is that Piketty averaged data from England, France and Sweden, but that he should have used an average weighted by the populations of each country.

Paul Krugman reviews Piketty
Paul Krugman reviews Piketty Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Paul Krugman reviews Piketty

Of course, whenever there is a hot economic issue on the table, we all want to know what Paul Krugman thinks about it. This whether or not we are a fan or a critic of Krugman. And Krugman doesn't disappoint us on this one. He has an in dept review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Krugman says, "It has become a commonplace to say that we are living in a second Gilded Age—or, as Piketty likes to put it, a second Belle Époque—defined by the incredible rise of the “one percent.” But it has only become a commonplace thanks to Piketty’s work. In particular, he and a few colleagues (notably Anthony Atkinson at Oxford and Emmanuel Saez at Berkeley) have pioneered statistical techniques that make it possible to track the concentration of income and wealth deep into the past—back to the early twentieth century for America and Britain, and all the way to the late eighteenth century for France."

Sweden was one of the European countries whose data was used by Piketty
Sweden was one of the European countries whose data was used by Piketty Ivan da Silva/Getty Images

Sweden was one of the European countries whose data was used by Piketty

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden & Prince Carl Philip attend the birthday cermony of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Royal Palace on April 30, 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century relied on data from a number of European countries, including England, France and Sweden. For Europe as a whole, Piketty uses an average that included these three countries. The Financial Times critique of Piketty says he should have used a weighted average. For other critical reaction and an assessment see Neil Irwin piece in the New Your Times and Mat O'Brien of the Washington Post.