In the heart of Paris, the best-selling author of Capital in the Twenty First-Century (2013) Thomas Piketty explained his work to a captive audience at the opening of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) Annual Conference "Liberté, égalité, et fragilité." The conference opened in the evening of Wednesday April 8 at l’espace Pierre Cardin, within walking distance of Place de la Concorde. The President of INET, Rob Johnson kicked off the evening explaining the inspiration for the conference, introducing the outgoing Chairman of the INET Governing Board, Anatole Kaletsky, and welcoming the incoming Chairman, Lord Adair Turner. Following the introductions, the Founder of INET and American business magnate, George Soros took the stage and spoke to the importance of discussing inequality. This became the ideal start to Thomas Piketty’s presentation of his research on the growing inequality problem.
Piketty hit the global economic scene with a large amount of hype for his grand ambition on inequality and the fact it came from a well-respected academic economist was an added bonus. Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a best seller with many economists and policy makers stating they had read the book and it had enlightened their view on inequality. On the other hand, others found it was not easily digestible inspiring the Twitter hashtag “#honestpiketty” boasting pictures of the large 700-page book with a bookmark only a few pages in.
Despite your opinion of the book itself, the ideas bring to the surface uncomfortable trends that are deepening inequality. Since the late 1970s income inequality has increased sharply, with a dramatic rise in the share of total income going to the very highest earners. The most quoted Piketty statistic is that 60% of the increase in US national income in the 30 years after 1977 went to just the top 1% of earners. Having Piketty open the INET Annual Conference set the stage for the discussions over the next three days that grouped together top scholars and policy makers to tackle this growing issue.
The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a partner with INET, was represented by Chair for CIGI Jim Balsillie, President of CIGI Rohinton Medhora and Director of the Global Economy Program Domenico Lombardi. On the morning of Friday, April 10, Rohinton Medhora acted as chair of a panel on “Stimulating Innovation & Growth.” The panelist included Jim Balsillie, Dan Breznitz from the Munk School of Global Affairs Chair of Innovation Studies, William Janeway and Andrew Wyckoff from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The group tackled the challenges that face innovative efforts in light of the current dominance of the United States and Europe in legislation on intellectual property. The following morning, Domenico Lombardi participated on a panel titled “The Eurozone Crisis: Fiscal Profligacy or Capital Flows as a Final Cause” that focused on some of the ongoing financial problems that Europe is facing.
CIGI continues to play an important role as a partner and supporter of the INET Annual Conference, this year alongside the hosting institution OECD. In the upcoming year, CIGI will continue to collaborate with INET on innovative projects that tackle issues, such as innovation and finance, international financial regulation, central banking, sovereign debt restructuring, and China’s role in the world economy.