Piketty and thinking about economics

There is a new economics rock-star touring the US by all accounts, and his name is Thomas Piketty.

More precisely, the star of the show is Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First century which is a 700-page volume on wealth distribution in 30 countries over decades and centuries of data.

I have not yet read it, but I wanted to note that the last time a piece of economic research got this sort of attention, it was also a long book, it was also a historical study, and it was all about data and looking at the world through the historical lens. That time it was Rogoff and Reinharts book on national debt:This time is different.

Could it be that books are the way to impact the discussion on economics and not papers - is the academic/economics grind counter-productive? I like this sort of scholarship, or let me qualify that, I like how Piketty describes his form of scholarship and his vision for economics:

Capital in the Twenty-first Century, Piketty makes clear, is his notion of what economics scholarship should look like: combining analyses of macro (growth) and micro (income distribution) issues; grounded in abundant empirical data; larded with references to sociology, history, and literature; and sparing on the math. In its scale and scope, the book evokes the foundational works of classical economics by Ricardo, Malthus, and Marx—to whose treatise on capitalism Piketty’s title alludes. (The Chronicle, 17 April 2014)

On that note I’m off to order my copy.

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