Thomas Piketty, The Man Who Foretold the Panama Papers

Crawford Kilian in The Tyee:

ScreenHunter_1835 Apr. 07 19.14At first glance, this book by the famous author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century looked like a disappointment. Instead of the vast sweep of that epic work, it's a cut-and-paste job — monthly articles first published in the French newspaper Libération between 2008 and 2015.

I've written such books myself, cobbling newspaper columns together just by dragging files around my computer screen. If you had a keen interest in British Columbian school politics in the 1980s and '90s, my books might still interest you. Otherwise, forget them.

Similarly, in this compilation Piketty is fussing about the crash of 2008 from a European perspective, and most of us have tried our best to forget that unfortunate era. It's mildly titillating to learn that the octogenarian heiress to the L'Oréal fortune is the richest woman in France, with a fortune of 15 billion euros while declaring only one billion.

And here and there you can catch themes that Piketty will turn into majestic symphonies in his magnum opus, like the inevitability of “patrimonial capitalism” — that is, wealth will accumulate in the families of the already rich, not in the families of the toiling masses, and it will continue to do so until the very rich are taxed according to their means. He also mentions “tax dumping,” whereby countries like Ireland attract a few jobs by charging almost no tax on giant corporations doing business elsewhere.

But why bother to buy a scrapbook of ancient columns when you can read Capital in the Twenty-First Century? For one very good reason.

Because Thomas Piketty follows the money. He goes into the tax archives of the last two centuries, and he has become the greatest economic detective the world has ever known.

More here.

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