The US economy is confronting a number of serious challenges as it transitions from the industrial to the digital age. Two in particular have commanded our attention in the recent past: job creation, especially the kind of mid-wage, mid-skills jobs that’ve been particularly hard hit by technology and globalization; and the rising financial inequality between the rich and superrich, - the 1% and .1%, - and everybody else. Most everyone agrees that these are both important challenges, but of the two, which should be at the top of our policy priorities? The best discussion I’ve seen of this question comes from two excellent recent articles by Harvard economics professor Larry Summers, - former Treasury Secretary, Director of the National Economic Council, and President of Harvard.
The first article, The Inequality Puzzle, is his review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by French economist Thomas Piketty. The English translation, published earlier this year, became a bestseller. Few scholarly books have received this kind of attention.
I’ve read a number of reviews but not the book itself, as I was frankly intimidated by its length and depth, - 700 pages of exhaustive facts-based, footnote-laden economic research. Generally, the reviewers’ opinions were influenced by their ideological leanings, with progressives liking it while conservatives were critical.