Event report: ‘The inequality challenge – competing answers for a global problem’

On 13 November, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) hosted a conference on ‘The inequality challenge – competing answers for a global problem’, chaired by Edmond Alphandéry with Allan H. Meltzer and Paul de Grauwe. Members of the library team attended this high-level debate, which Mr Alphandéry introduced as a meeting of old friends. We live-tweeted highlights. Below some other notes, with hints for further reading on the issues raised, both from our collections and other sources.

Originally, the debate was meant to be around Thomas Piketty’s well-known book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century and whether you mildly agreed with its contents – like Prof. de Grauwe for whom it is “a good book” but with caveats, or you strongly disagreed – like Prof. Meltzer for whom “the book is a fraud and reaches the wrong conclusion“.

However, it sort of became an ideological debate about the economic model spelled out by Prof. Meltzer, who definitely does not believe in the welfare state, when Prof. de Grauwe took the floor with the intention to pinpoint the flaws in Prof. Meltzer’s theory:

the relation between taxation and income should not be a linear relationship.

He was cut by Prof. Meltzer, for whom questions about inequality and prudent economic policies eventually boiled down to questions regarding tax rates. Meltzer used France as an example to underscore his argument about the shortcomings of the welfare state. Prof. de Grauwe then brought in Sweden as a counter-argument, to which Meltzer responded “we can talk about Sweden but let’s talk about France“.

Back to “the” book, even the Financial Times now acknowledges the work of Mr Piketty by awarding it the Business Book of the Year prize.

Recent comments by Prof. Meltzer on the euro area were reported in Die Welt; here are his available writings indexed in the European Commission library catalogue and writings by Paul de Grauwe indexed in the Council library catalogue.

Based on the flying words used during this lively debate, we are proposing a selection of recent resources on inequalityfiscal policy, growth and harmonization of taxation from the Council library catalogue to our readers.

The final words belong to Edmond Alphandéry:

Equality is less an economic variable than a political one.

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