Government and public affairs professor discusses global inequality

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The current rate of economic inequality in the United States, as well as the rest of the world, is higher than it has been in the past several decades and is continuing to grow, according to James Galbraith, a government and public affairs professor, at a lecture Monday. 

At the seminar, called “Capital and Inequality: Up from Piketty,” Galbraith discussed his review of a book by Thomas Piketty about inequality, titled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Galbraith said Piketty misleads readers mainly because he takes their attention away from important questions that should be asked about
the issue.

“In the wake of the crisis, [the important questions are] the dysfunction of the financial system, the actual character of technological change, the continuing deterioration of the world economic order, and a fourth one is the instability of the resource situation,” Galbraith said.

Galbraith said he defines “capital” as more than just monetary value. According to Galbraith, anything that allows an entity to make controlling decisions can be referred to as capital.

Mark Metzler, Asian studies and history professor, attended the talk and said he believes the current height of inequality across the world is a result of those with higher status rapidly accumulating more wealth and power.

“The rate of return of capital normally runs at a much higher rate than the rate of economic growth,” Metzler said. “[This] means that the people who hold claims to capital will naturally be getting a larger and larger share of the national wealth.”

Dashiell Daniels, Asian studies and history junior, said he believes that corporate institutions and financial sectors play an important role in the growing inequality across the globe, especially in the post-WWII era.

“Institutional and financial rigidity and accumulating the incomes into a very small sector of the population, where you have almost a monopolistic control of finance and production [are driving forces],” Daniels said.