Piketty, Stiglitz, GDP, and The Listener


A letter to the editor of The Listener regarding their recent cover story of the interest shown in Thomas Piketty's book "Capital in the 21st Century".

The Editor
The Listener
08 June, 2014

Dear Editor:

Thomas Piketty’s book, “Capital in the 21st Century”, is getting lots of attention these days. The Listener quotes New Zealand economist Brian Easton claim that the book describes an idea whose time has come. But no, today it is more a theory whose time has come and gone. This discussion of inequality might have been cogent 45 years ago when noted economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote his PhD thesis on the same topic (as he now complains). In 1970 it might have been possible to slow the impetuous toward inequality.

But now in 2014 the main attraction of this debate, in my observation, is not inequality but that it enables avoidance of discussion of the “elephant in the room”, the exploitative nature of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on which so-called “economic growth” capitalism is based.
It has finally become apparent within western countries over the last decades that the kind of “economic growth”, based on GDP, engaged by capitalist economies, requires exploitation of people and the environment quite beyond either a just or sustainable level. But Pattrick Smellie’s article in The Listener says nothing of this larger reality. The economists he quotes make no mention of it, exposing how politically skewed the debate is in favour of the exploiters.


Richard Keller
13 Endeavour St.
Wellington 6022


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