700 pages of poppycock: A bestseller arguing capitalism doesn’t work – book review

A new kid on the block has shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists in Britain and the United States, who boasts eyelash-fluttering looks, and has been dubbed by New York magazine ‘the rock star economist’.

Thomas Piketty, only 42, is the author of a tome entitled Capital In The 21st Century, which is heavy enough to create a doll’s house rug if dropped on the children’s hamster.

Admirers say it is a tract for our times, laying bare the wickedness of the way the Western world manages and distributes its money.

Since its author quotes authors such as Balzac and Jane Austen a lot, he gains reward points as a supposedly literate sort of chap.
The Guardian treats Piketty’s work with the sort of reverence it usually reserves for Tony Benn’s diaries and the collected works of Polly Toynbee. The author, writes Paul Mason in its pages, ‘has placed an unexploded bomb within mainstream, classical economics’.
This book is an attack on capitalism. And yet does not capitalism provide a structure which encourages personal aspiration, the desire to enrich oneself through graft, and the opportunity to keep as much of the money you have earned as possible?
Even though Piketty is advancing propositions not seriously discussed anywhere in the world, even in communist states, since the demise of Chairman Mao, his thesis has been respectfully received by numerous commentators in the U.S. and Britain, including several whom one would expect to know better.

Review is at The Daily Mail, by Max Hastings.