Steven's Blog

Much ado about Piketty

Thomas Piketty, French economist, and intellectuel célèbre, was recently in Japan to speak about his much talked about book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty is on record supporting most aspects of Abenomics, and hence the interest. A flurry of opinion pieces on Piketty’s controversial work ensued as there always is whenever there is serious talk of wealth redistribution.

Piketty’s research is impressive and I admire him for taking a controversial stand. However, I believe that using historical data, no matter how much or how detailed, to determine what is and isn’t possible for humans to achieve to be wrong.

Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Click To Tweet

What is accepted as truth today holds until no longer true. If human society and economy were truly condemned to be no more than what it has been before, reaching no matter how into the past, future improvement and change would not be possible. Yet, we know that we have changed. Change may not be linear, but it exists.

There is a danger in applying scientific methods designed primarily to understand natural laws to understand human experience. A planet cannot change its orbit on its own, but a person can choose to orbit in different circles.To justify actions based a belief how things are because this is how they have always been and will thus always be is a growth-inhibiting practice. Be wary of attempts to define natural laws in social science.

People, organizations, societies, and economies are capable of growth and change beyond what has defined their previous limits. The last thing the world needs right now Piketty’s fatalism.


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