Collected bits on The Midwest, Piketty, politics, and shale oil fantasy

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If you have no idea what the big deal is about Thomas Piketty’s book, this comic will bring you up to speed ASAP.

I have a question, some collected commentary on Piketty’s book, and some video to share.

1) The Question

It’s a hot book.
The hardcover copies are sold out on Amazon. But do you, dear Midwesterners, actually have a copy? Or know about it?

Justin Wolfers says you don’t because you’re not part of the “East Coast liberal echo chamber“.

I’d love it if you responded in comments on that guy’s claim – and on anything in here whether you’ve read the book or not.

2) Doug Henwood’s “The Top of the World” in BOOKFORUM.

A snippet from Henwood on Pickety’s failure to connect his research to a solution that would save us from serfdom:

“Starting with the title, the eternally recurrent specter of Marx hangs over this book. Early into the first page of the introduction, Piketty asks, “Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, as Karl Marx believed in the nineteenth century?” Phrasing the question as something grounded in the past is a nice distancing technique, as the psychoanalysts say, but the answer is clearly yes. Several times, Piketty disavows Marx—just a few lines later he credits “economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge” for allowing us to avoid “the Marxist apocalypse”—but he also concedes that those prophylactics have not changed capitalism’s deep structures and the tendency for wealth to concentrate. It seems, in other words, that Piketty’s own research shows that the old nineteenth-century gloomster had a point.

Unlike most modern economists, Piketty at least credits Marx’s ambition and profundity. But for Piketty, the main problem with Marx is his unequivocal call for political confrontation. Having described a process of inexorable material polarization—and with it, increasing plutocratic power over the state—Piketty remains distressingly moderate as he sounds out some of the political implications of his analysis.” – source

3) James Howard Kunstler’s “Piketty Dikitty Rikitty“.

What follows is a snippet on the worthless fantasies of our “leadership”. This is where the shale oil comes in:

“Piketty and his fans assume that the industrial orgy will continue one way or another, in other words that some mysterious “they” will “come up with innovative new technologies” to obviate the need for fossil fuels and that the volume of wealth generated will more or less continue to increase. This notion is childish, idiotic, and wrong. Energy and technology are not substitutable with each other. If you run out of the former, you can’t replace it with the latter (and by “run out” I mean get it at a return of energy investment that makes sense). The techno-narcissist Jeremy Rifkins and Ray Kurzweils among us propound magical something-for-nothing workarounds for our predicament, but they are just blowing smoke up the collective fundament of a credulous ruling plutocracy. In fact, we’re faced with an unprecedented contraction of wealth, and a shocking loss of ability to produce new wealth. That‘s the real “game-changer,” not the delusions about shale oil and the robotic “industrial renaissance” and all the related fantasies circulating among a leadership that checked its brains at the Microsoft window.” – source

You might enjoy this intro video from the author. Due to his (lovely) accent, you’ll have to focus a bit to take him in.

And in case you’re interested, I ran into a 1 hour 19 minute presentation by Piketty delivered at the Economic Policy Institute in D.C.


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