The Piketty Phenomenon: New Zealand Perspectives

The Piketty Phenomenon is another of BWB's accessible texts on a big topic – this time Thomas Piketty's globally important economic “bombshell”, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

The world, apart from New Zealand, has latched on to the critical economic, political and social relevance of Picketty's work, asserting as it does that inherited wealth grows faster, on average, than earned wealth, a conclusion that raises questions about the future of capitalism.

This useful text corrals 15 contributors of diverse economic, financial and political perspectives, to both explain and contextualise Piketty's revolutionary research for reluctant Kiwi readers. As many of the contributors to The Piketty Phenomenon note; New Zealand is affected – economically and intellectually- by what happens offshore.

The contributors tackle Piketty from an interesting array of angles. Blogger Donal Curtin asks why the fuss? Economist, businessman and philanthropist Gareth Morgan explains why we need to shift to capital taxes. Robert Wade, Professor of Political Economy at the London School of Economics, takes an intelligent look at the future of inequality while economist Matt Nolan asks what is the Piketty model and whether it fits New Zealand?

Financial journalist and editor Bernard Hickey explains what Piketty means for us and another freelance journalist, Max Rashbrook, uses his chapter to “bring wealth into the spotlight” as does Hautahi Kingi, a Ph.D. student in Cornell University's Department of Economics with his contribution on 'Illuminating Inequality'.

Victoria University's Geoff Bertram sets the tone. He questions whether Piketty's book has changed anything? It is, in his opinion and in the world of professional economics, “a bombshell, promising a Kuhnian scientific revolution”. He then explains why he holds this belief, using both global and local points of reference and relevance to make his case. 

The Piketty Phenomenon is a 190-pager that outlines the relevance, or otherwise, of Piketty's conclusions. As the Publisher's promotion statement succinctly puts it: “Is New Zealand faced with a one-way future of rising inequality? Does redistribution need to focus more on wealth, rather than just income?” These questions and more are independently and thoughtfully tackled by the book's contributors. There's no excuse now for leaders and managers not to come up to speed with perhaps one of the world's most confounding current issues. 



  • Reviewed by Reg Birchfield; writer on management, leadership and governance. [email protected]
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