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on 14 September 2014
A painstaking and thought provoking but on the whole convincing reworking of the accumulation of capital taking advantage of the huge improvement in statistical information during the past century or so. The long term choice seems to be a global wealth tax or revolution. If I were a betting man know which I would put my limited wealth on. I docked one star because it is a bit repetitive and the concluding sections seem to be rushed and do not entirelyy follow from the previous analysis.
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on 22 September 2014
Succinct . and to the point A clear expose of factual information which has deliberately been ignored by UK and EU despite the grotesque failure of the "market forces" and "privatisation" policies .which have been followed.
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on 10 June 2017
A hugely important book; the world in which we live makes a lot more sense when you've finished reading it.
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on 9 April 2016
Hard work, but important. What this needs is a plain English summary for a 10 year old. Here goes:

Money works like this: the wealthiest 10% own 90% of stuff (money, land, buildings, investments). On that, they earn roughly 5%. So if you’ve got a million pounds, without getting out of bed you’ll get 50,000 of income a year. Better yet, because the returns on investment (about 5%) are higher than the growth in incomes (about 1-2%) the rich get even richer over the years.

That’s pretty much the way the world has always worked – why Kings get to build palaces, how the Pope got rich, and how Downton Abbey ran. It explains why many of the wealthiest in the world today haven’t done a days work in their lives. The average French citizen gets 70% of income from wages, and 30% from investment returns – but for the poor it nearly all comes from wages, and for the rich, they get more of their income from their investments. This is why if you want to be rich, you’re better off inheriting money or marrying into a rich family!

But things have changed over time. Things got really unequal before the French Revolution, and during Industrial Revolution Britain (Charles Dickens wrote about that). It was one of the reasons behind the downfall of the Russian Tsar and the rise of communism and the start of the 20th Century.
But the wealth inequalities fell – quickly and dramatically last century. The first and second world war (and Great Depression between) destroyed much of the wealth of the rich. The end of Britain’s empire lost overseas assets worth over 4 times national income (40 times greater than the cost of physical destruction of the first and second world wars to Germany!). After the second world war, Western governments gave greater consideration to equality – in France for instance controls were set on maximum rents tenants needed to pay landlords; never-before seen levels of income taxes were introduced (the top UK tax-rate never fell below 90% from 1948-1979); and a new inheritance tax was created which meant that when people died, some of their money went to the government instead of their children. Also, the economy was growing faster than at any time ever in history. And when that happens, incomes grow too – creating more opportunities for people to create new fortunes (like Bill Gates’ from Microsoft). The result of all this was that the proportion of capital to income fell from 7:1 in 1870 to 2:1 in 1950. People were beginning to live of the money they earned rather than the income of their investments.

But things are now reversing – and we are returning to levels of inequality described by Charles Dickens and Jane Austin over 100 years ago. The capital to income ratio is now back up to 6:1. In the USA, the wealthiest 10% own 70%. That’s not as bad as the 90% as they owned in 1910, but it’s much unequal than the 50% they owned in the 50s. The poorest half of Americans own just 2% of its stuff.

Why has society become so unequal again?

One answer is that the world is simply returning to the way it’s always been. The period from 1910-1980 was simply an exception to the general rule – with horrible wars that destroyed wealth, and Western governments introducing special policies which gave priority to equality. In part, this was a reaction to the Communism which spread globally – to give capitalism a gentle face.

But by around 1980, and particularly after the fall of communism around 1990, people were less bothered about sharing wealth equally. Income taxes, rent controls, and inheritance taxes were all cut. And the removal of capital controls allowed the wealthy to move their assets to tax-free places around the world to seek out the highest-possible returns. Super-high salaries for top managers became common (why fight for a pay rise if 90% is going to the tax-man?)

So, almost without realising it, our world has returned to the old-normal. In Jane Austin’s time, landowners collected 5% rent on their land and went shooting. Nowadays the sons of Chinese billionaires collect 5% dividend on their shareholdings and play shooting computer games. For me this raises the question: at what point did Western public decide that we no longer cared about the distribution of wealth in society? If it’s the result of a conscious decision, then so be it. But I wonder instead if we haven’t just sleepwalked there, too preoccupied with fiddling on our iPhones and Twitter to realise that a fundamental shift in society has taken place. The French and Russians had revolutions – what are we going to do about it?
Thomas Piketty proposes a global tax on capital – a little bit, per year, and what you have. I’m sceptical that’ll be made to work – after all, we live in a world where China (apparently) invests more in the British Virgin Islands than it does in Europe – the idea of the wealthy of the world (and the tax-havens) suddenly agreeing to behave like saints seems a bit far fetched.
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on 6 July 2015
Some interesting ideas but repetitive repetitive repetitive and overlong. He could have done it all at a third the length. It is also quite badly written, or is it badly translated? No I think it is bad writing.
I for one won't be looking out expectantly for more from Piketty
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on 27 October 2016
Difficult. difficult, difficult to read! But I'm sure it does make sense if you can patiently get to the end!
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on 28 September 2015
heavy going
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on 29 January 2017
Very nice book. really enjoyed it
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on 8 December 2016
a weighty tome, takes you back to the beginning but it is wordy, so far I am on third through it.
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on 4 October 2014
Interesting summary if a brief idea of the book's contents is what one wants. Unfortunately it is marred by inexcusable spelling, grammar and syntax errors leaving room for doubt about the seriousness of the rest of the content.
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