Indeed, the distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers. It is of interest to everyone, and that is a good thing. The concrete, physical reality of inequality is visible to the naked eye and naturally inspires sharp but contradictory political judgments. Peasant and noble, worker and factory owner, waiter and banker: each has his or her own unique vantage point and sees important aspects of how other people live and what relations of power and domination exist between social groups, and these observations shape each person’s judgment of what is and is not just. Hence there will always be a fundamentally subjective and psychological dimension to inequality, which inevitably gives rise to political conflict that no purportedly scientific analysis can alleviate. Democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts—and that is a very good thing.
A Republic of Experts—if there’s a better way to describe our current state of social and economic affairs, I don’t know what it is.
Anyway, Piketty’s book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” is what all of the cool kids are reading right now (and by ‘reading’ I mean ‘listening to people discuss on podcasts and NPR’) and I’ve been looking for an excuse to convince myself that I need to read it too.
If you’re on the edge, reading the Introduction is the way to go—from what I understand, the book proper is denser, but if you can make heads or tails of the Intro, you should be able to make it through. And if you’re still reading this, you will probably enjoy the Intro. Once I finish Roxane Gay’s new novel, I’m going to take the plunge. Or maybe I’ll save it for vacation, because, you know, what better time to declare that, “Intellectual and political debate about the distribution of wealth has long been based on an abundance of prejudice and a paucity of fact,” than while you’re sitting on the beach with your family.