Piketty #1: inequality comes home

I’m so delighted.  Piketty’s work is just amazing!

Piketty has a nice prologue he uses on many of his talks.  Once, in the 19th century, the distribution of wealth was well inside the Overton window.  Why did it fall out?

He gives us a hypothesis.  The 19th century consensus predictions were apocalyptic (consider Marx) and when these didn’t happen the entire discussion fell out of favor.  Let’s ignore the great depression and the 2nd world war shall we?

Then, early in the 20th century a modicum of research showed a slight decrease in the problem in the US.   That under minded the foundations.  So that the dominate topic: democratic v.s. communist governance could stepped up and toss our hero out the window.  At that point if you raised the topic the discussion immediately became “communism!”

Of course old habits die hard, but I guess the fall of communism allows the question a chance to come back into our discourse.

So three things drove the problem out the window: the failure of the apocalyptic predictions, a small modicum of research/data, and displacement in the discourse by the democracy v.s. communism governance dispute.  It’s fun to flesh this out, but it’s just his prolog.

He uses the prologue to say two things to his audience.  First it given them the license of welcome the discussion back.  And secondly he can promise to behave.  No apocalyptic visions for him!  It’s a nice story arc isn’t it?  It’s the classic: hero cast out of his home later returns having learned a life lesson.  I particularly like the little ploy so common in horror movies of having the dead hand of a monster rise from the grave.

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