Annie Lowrey has a must-read New York Times profile of the two French economists who have meticulously documented changes in the income share of the 1%, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. We've used their research extensively at this blog. From the profile:
Both admire, even adore, the United States, they say, for its entrepreneurial drive, innovative spirit and, not least, its academic excellence: the two met while re-searchers in Cambridge, Mass. But both also express bewilderment over the current conversation about whether the wealthy, who have taken most of America’s income gains over the last 30 years, should be paying higher taxes.“The United States is getting accustomed to a completely crazy level of inequality,” Mr. Piketty said, with a degree of wonder. “People say that reducing inequality is radical. I think that tolerating the level of inequality the United States tolerates is radical.”[...]“In a way, the United States is becoming like Old Europe, which is very strange in historical perspective,” Mr. Piketty said. “The United States used to be very egalitarian, not just in spirit but in actuality. Inequality of wealth and income used to be much larger in France. And very high taxes on the very rich — that was invented in the United States,” he said.Mr. Saez added, “Absent drastic policy changes, I doubt that income inequality will decline on its own.”
I also want to use this moment and link to the syllabus and course materials for Thomas Piketty's Paris School of Economics class on the "Economics of Inequality/Economie des inégalités." I like reading syllabi to get a sense of where academic debates are, and these materials are going to be at the forefront of the inequality debate for some time to come. The left-liberal space is re-examining and re-building its case on inequality in wake of the Recession and the 1% narrative, and this syllabus is a brilliant collection of the latest arguments, research and academic debate. It's what will, in a good world, be common knowledge among all graduate students in 10 years - here you can see it argued in real time. Check it out!
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