World-renowned economist and inequality researcher Thomas Piketty in conversation with Rob Johnson, President of the Institute for New Economic Thinking about Piketty’s just-released book, A Brief History of Equality.
The book condenses 20 years’ worth of research into inequality and provides well-founded reasons to believe that recent trends in the growth of inequality can be reversed in the not too distant future.
Piketty reminds us that the grand sweep of history gives us reasons to be optimistic. Over the centuries, his new book shows, we have been moving toward greater equality. The book guides the reader through the great movements that have made the modern world for better and worse: the growth of capitalism, revolutions, imperialism, slavery, wars, and the building of the welfare state. It’s a history of violence and social struggle, punctuated by regression and disaster. But through it all, Piketty shows, human societies have moved fitfully toward a more just distribution of income and assets, a reduction of racial and gender inequalities, and greater access to health care, education, and the rights of citizenship. Our rough march forward is political and ideological, an endless fight against injustice. To keep moving, Piketty argues, we need to learn and commit to what works, to institutional, legal, social, fiscal, and educational systems that can make equality a lasting reality. At the same time, we need to resist historical amnesia and the temptations of cultural separatism and intellectual compartmentalization. At stake is the quality of life for billions of people. We know we can do better, Piketty concludes.