Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Some Ill-Informed, Unorganized Thoughts on Thomas Piketty

Capital in the 21st CenturyI just finished reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, the economics work du jour that has been called the most important book of the century. Rather than take the time to collect my thoughts and organize them into a coherent, sensible review, I decided I’d just dump my initial impressions in a scattered fashion and let you wade your way through. I’m not sure why anyone would even by interested in what I have to say about the issue (as opposed to people much more informed than I am), but this is the Internet and being unqualified never stopped anyone before!

 

—It seems to me that, in all the discussion of Piketty’s book, a lot of people are misconstruing the argument he’s really making. The summary you’ll see a lot is that Piketty is saying inequality has been getting worse for the last 30 years or so. And that is sort of what he’s saying, but that’s not the crux of his argument, and he’s very open about the lack the clarity on that issue. Indeed, he says, “It is by no means certain that inequalities of wealth are actually increasing at the global level.”

Still, inequality is the central theme of the book, and Piketty paints a harrowing portrait. But the full picture he creates is not just one of the present and recent past. He goes all the way back to the eighteenth and nineteenth century and illustrates a few key points. The first is that inequality decreased substantially throughout the twentieth century. This is kind of obvious, but his next point is crucial: This decrease was essentially a historical accident. It was the result of a global Depression and two world wars of unprecedented scale, which destroyed a ton of wealth* and, as Piketty puts it, “wiped the slate clean” for the generation after World War II.

*The way this happened was not as obvious as you might think. Some of it was just the physical destruction of the wars, sure, but it also came from nationalizations caused by the war, loss of European colonies, and the huge national debts and subsequent inflation that followed. Piketty explains it all better than I could.

In other words, the decrease in inequality wasn’t some natural result of the forces of capitalism, but the legacy of specific disasters we’re only now emerging from.

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Monday Medley

What we read while contemplating the art of winning an unfair game…

Miley Cyrus vs. Taylor Swift

As far as I know, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift do not hate each other. In fact, they appear to be on rather friendly terms in this YouTube video. At one point, Miley even referred to Taylor as her “best friend.”*

*Although, to be fair, she’s also applied that term to her dad, Nick Jonas, her YouTube talk-show co-host Mandy Jiroux, Liam Henson, the “Leslie” of “See You Again,” and, of course, God. Miley may have more “best friends” than any pop star in history.  

So there is no obvious enmity between the two of them, but I feel like there should be. It seems to me that there should be a Highlanderesque, there-can-only-be-one vibe to their relationship. There can be no peaceful coexistence between these two stars.

From where I sit, these two are completely interchangeable. They’re both young singers who sing bad country-infused pop songs about what kind of shoes they wear. They both sing primarily for a vast audience of girls between the ages of 11 and 19. They both dated a Jonas Brother. They’re both from small towns. They’re both (ostensibly) wholesome. They both play the “gosh-I’m-just-so-overwhelmed-by-all-this-attention-since-I’m-from-a-modest-small-town” card, even though they’ve each spent over 25% of their conscious lives as superfamous sensations.

This seems like it should create a natural rivalry. And yet, even with a music media that loves pitting artists against each other unnecessarily (Britney vs. Christina, *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, Kanye West vs. 50 Cent), not very much has been made of these two as potential rivals. In fact, most people don’t seem to consider them very similar at all. Continue reading