Felix Salmon

The Piketty pessimist

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 2.12.10 PM.png

This chart comes from the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Risks Report, which came out just before Thomas Piketty’s book started becoming the topic of discussion in economic and plutocratic circles.* You can clearly see what you might call the rise of inequality-as-an issue: before 2012 it’s nowhere to be found, but since then it’s been consistently in the top spot. My prediction is that in 2015, thanks to Piketty, the WEF will start talking less about income inequality, and more about wealth inequality.

Who is speaking for the poor?

After shocking you this morning with the news that people like to go out at weekends, I hope you’re sitting down for this one: people who aren’t good at numbers tend to be bad at looking after their money.

You can’t blame legislation for inequality

In the NYT today, I review the new books from Paul Krugman and Tim Noah. Short version: these are both really smart people, whom you should pay attention to. But neither has produced a great read, a book which works really well qua book. Krugman and Noah have good reason to be upset at me for this, because the fact is that the overwhelming majority of the nonfiction books which pile up around me every day are just as dull as theirs are. To say that these books are a bit of a slog is not to say something mean about Krugman and Noah in particular, so much as it is to say a simple truth about virtually every popular book about economics. But these are the books I was asked to review, and if anybody asked me whether they should read either one of them, I would reply by pointing that person to Krugman and Noah’s online writing instead. Because that is much more digestible, and even fun to read.

How the middle class enables the ultra-rich

If you want a three-sentence distillation of Adam Davidson’s latest column for the NYT Magazine, just ask Joe Schwenk, a/k/a @HamptonsBorn, what the biggest secret is about the Hamptons:

Why Davos is ignoring Occupy

If you’re Europe, and your struggling people are called “Greeks”, and your rich people are called “Germans”, then the World Economic Forum will spend pretty much limitless amounts of time and effort on attempts to understand the dynamics between the two and (doomed) plans to try to prevent it from turning into a fully-blown crisis.

Income distribution charts of the day, middle-class edition

Ian Ayres has an excellent post at Freakononomics today, explaining some of the background thinking behind his inequality tax proposal:

The plight of the 1%

Max Abelson has a fantastic column today from simply asking prominent members of the 1% about their embattled status. There’s Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, who characterizes any potential critic of his wealth by asking the timeless question “who gives a crap about some imbecile?”. There’s BB&T‘s John A. Allison IV, who says that any rule requiring public companies to disclose the ratio between the compensation of their CEO and their median employee would constitute “an attack on the very productive”. And then there’s Steve Schwarzman, displaying his legendary deftness of touch in a TV interview:

Hedgies vs Obama

Jim Chanos claims not to understand why hedgies are so critical of Barack Obama: after all, they’ve done pretty well for themselves over the past three years. But maybe this chart, from Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, might help him out:

American plutocracy

Michael Lewis puts his finger on something important:

Ordinary Greeks seldom harass their rich, for the simple reason that they have no idea where to find them. To a member of the Greek Lower 99 a Greek Upper One is as good as invisible.