Editor’s note: Below is a Q&A with Brad Delong, economics professor at Berkeley. The topic was Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”Delong blogs here »
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BUSINESS INSIDER:What one comment or idea has stuck with you most from Berkeley’s “Piketty Day?“
BRAD DELONG: That Piketty has a very uphill climb to get modern American economists to believe his story, for their — our — default models were built for an age in which and assume that virtually nothing has a big effect on income and wealth inequality.
BI: Should everyone be reading Piketty’s book? Do you/the department plan on telling all of your students to?
BD: Well, what else do you have to do with your time? I am an economist: it is a matter of opportunity costs. Certainly students taking courses focused on inequality or advanced economic history should read “pick-Eddie” cover to cover. And I think six hours spent reading because he is far superior to spending six hours watching episodes of “The Cat from Hell”…
BI: Do you have any sense of how Piketty is being received by elected officials?
BD: Not really. As you know, Elizabeth Warren likes the book.
BI: We’ve seen a lot of curious examples of who in real life might embody Piketty’s patrimonial capitalist, from Paris Hilton to Bill Gates, none of which really seem to fit. Who in your mind embodies Piketty’s archetype?
BD:It is too early for there to be an archetype. The Walton heirs might fit as a stopgap…the archetype Piketty has in mind isn’t a entrepreneur, or the child of an entrepreneur, but an heir whose parents were themselves among the idle rich..
BI: What is the best criticism of Piketty you’ve read?
BD: You know, that is a surprisingly hard question to answer because the average quality of the negative criticism has been so low. I do not understand why this is so. I guess I would say Suresh Naidu’s forthcoming review in “Jacobin”–but that is not so much a criticism as a development and an extension and a filling in holes in the argument…