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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty


I love the fact that Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, is absolutely humbled by the profundity of this work. This illustrates the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives: liberals will change how they think when the facts tell them they should while conservatives keep to their hoary opinions at all cost.

I love how conservatives attempting to disparage this book point out that the author is French, as if that is all that needs to be said. They ask whether we in the USA wish to go the way of socialist Europe…or what, exactly? Will they have us go the way of Brazil in which a few oligarchs take everything while the masses fester in favelas riddled with violent crime and no hope of upward mobility while the children of the rich get into Yale with a C average?

What Piketty brings to the debate is extensive years of the study of economic history which has always been the most reliable method to predict future economic performance. Conservatives have, for the most part, only offered theories of what they hope will happen. My question to conservatives has always been the following: Show me an example of the type of society you wish to build. Because to me it looks like they are trying to rebuild the feudal era and we are hurtling towards that model.

I have been on a reading bender of books documenting just how much conservatives have perverted the American system and way of life. Beginning with Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew which recounts how Republicans gained power and immediately began to disassemble the institutions protecting citizens which took us the better part of the 20th century to install. All of this destruction was done in the name of free market capitalism, or at least their highly selective version of it which protects the wealthiest businessmen while throwing most of the rest of us to the dogs.

From there I read Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap which tells how the income disparity has twisted our judicial system in such a way that ordinary citizens (a disproportionate number of them being black males) are thrown into prison while white collar felons are rarely, if ever, charge with a crime. 

Flash Boys is Michael Lewis’ latest work of financial journalism where he chronicles the insane phenomena of High Frequency Trading and how this legal practice has made unthinkable fortunes for a select few on Wall Street as they swindle their own customers. The title comes from a group of young executives who decided to create their own stock exchange to offer investors an alternative to the thievery of other traders.

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