The wave of public discussion triggered by a French economist’s best-selling treatise on the dangers of global wealth inequality made its way to Vancouver this week, with members of Clark College’s faculty and area residents grappling with the book’s ramifications.
Three panelists — sociology professor Carlos Castro, economics professor John Fite and economics instructor Shon Kraley, all members of Clark College’s faculty — weighed in on Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” released in 2013, at a forum Thursday on the college’s main campus in Vancouver.
Piketty’s central argument, that the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is unsustainable and poses a threat to democratic institutions, is “alarming and well made,” Fite said. But the current distribution of income and wealth are human-made, Fite said, “not ordained by God,” which means people can change the laws that govern capitalism to make it more equitable. “We have to decide how to change them,” he said.
Each of the three panelists, part of a larger conversation dubbed “Contradiction in Capitalism,” took turns distilling Piketty’s 696-page book. They also fielded questions from many members of an audience that packed the seats inside Clark College’s Foster Auditorium.
The panelists addressed everything from inherited wealth and the accumulation of capital (profits, dividends, rents, interest and so on) to various theories of money and employment held by everyone from Greek philosopher Aristotle to influential British economist John Maynard Keynes.