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830. The contradictions of Piketty’s thought

Working paper N. 830 Maggio 2020

Filippo Gusella

DEPS, USiena

Abstract

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is primarily an empirical investigation into the history of the distribution of income and wealth in developed countries. Piketty, however, goes beyond this approach, presenting a theory of the long-run tendency of wealth inequality and rooting his work deeply in economic theory. In this paper we review and develop the theoretical model of Piketty’s book. We can divide the model into two parts: firstly, the "fundamental laws of capitalism" and the change in the functional distribution of income are analysed. Secondly, the evolution of personal wealth distribution is examined. Alongside the development of the model, the paper points out two shortcomings. We show the contradiction of the original model in explaining the increase of the capital/income ratio with the change in the functional distribution of income. Moreover, we highlight the inconsistency between the definition of capital and the model proposed. The paper concludes by outlining alternative approaches to the problem, calling for a major rethinking about the causes of rising wealth inequality

Keywords

Piketty; economic inequality; fundamental laws of capitalism; functional distribution of income; economic growth

Jel Codes

D31, E25, P10