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Commentary :: Social Welfare
New thoughts on capital in the twenty-first century, 21 min
24 Oct 2014
Thomas Piketty is the author of the 2014 bestseller "Capital in the 21st Century."
to hear Thomas Piketty's June 2014 presentation, click on
http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_piketty_new_thoughts_on_capital_in_the_t

"I've been working on the history of income and wealth distribution for the past 15 years, and one of the interesting lessons coming from this historical evidence is indeed that, in the long run, there is a tendency for the rate of return of capital to exceed the economy's growth rate, and this tends to lead to high concentration of wealth. Not infinite concentration of wealth, but the higher the gap between r and g, the higher the level of inequality of wealth towards which society tends to converge....

I think if you look back through time, the history of income, wealth and taxation is full of surprise. So I am not terribly impressed by those who know in advance what will or will not happen. I think one century ago, many people would have said that progressive income taxation would never happen and then it happened. And even five years ago, many people would have said that bank secrecy will be with us forever in Switzerland, that Switzerland was too powerful for the rest of the world, and then suddenly it took a few U.S. sanctions against Swiss banks for a big change to happen, and now we are moving toward more financial transparency. So I think it's not that difficult to better coordinate politically. We are going to have a treaty with half of the world GDP around the table with the U.S. and the European Union, so if half of the world GDP is not enough to make progress on financial transparency and minimal tax for multinational corporate profits, what does it take? So I think these are not technical difficulties. I think we can make progress if we have a more pragmatic approach to these questions and we have the proper sanctions on those who benefit from financial opacity."

0:48 So this is a key force that I'm going to talk about today, but let me say right away that this is not the only important force in the dynamics of income and wealth distribution, and there are many other forces that play an important role in the long-run dynamics of income and wealth distribution.
See also:
http://www.freembtranslations.net
http://www.foreffectivegov.org
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