He's Obsessed With Data, And He Found Something Really Shocking

Question: Why are you not more worried about capital?

Maybe you're not so worried because you don't know what the heck I'm talking about. Let's start with a definition: Capital is stuff you own and can make money off of. For example, your house in the hills, your 10 acres of beachfront property, or the 20,000 shares of Google stock you own (I'm an optimist). OK, perhaps you don't have any of those things, but there's a small group of wealthy folks who do. They're the ones holding most of the capital.


And capital should concern you because of a man named Thomas Piketty. Piketty wrote a book called "Capital in the 21st Century" in which he collected a whole lot of data.

We won't go through all that data, but instead, let's just look at a few graphs.

Back in the day (18th and 19th centuries), the value of capital grew faster than the economy. It grew so much that by 1900, wealth in the U.K. was 700% more valuable than the national output. In other words, it was much more lucrative to just have lots of capital than to create goods and services for the economy.

Which meant — big surprise — rich folks benefited from this situation, and wealth inequality got real bad.

However, things got a little more equal in the 20th century. World wars and decolonization either blew up the wealth of those rich folks or forced them to give back some of their stuff.

And as the economy began to grow again after World War II, your average Joe (or Jane) started to gain some traction on the rich.

But here's where the upsetting part comes in: Piketty and his data suggest that since 1980, things are going backward. Capital (remember that thing?) is, once again, starting to grow faster than the economy, and rich folks are pulling away.

That means, according to Piketty, we're headed back to the (not so) good ol' days where the rich pretty much just own all the things. Plus top hats and monocles.

Check out the BBC's explainer of Piketty's "Capital" and find out what he thinks the solution is.

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