New Yorkers who work as nurses, or grocery-store cashiers, or cops, or delivery drivers, these are scary days in the workplace. People who live in institutional settingsshelters, nursing homes, detention facilitiesface a different set of risks and challenges.

And for those who are able to shelter in place, these can be long and lonely days, dogged always by the frightening public-health context we’re living in. How often can you disinfect your house? How many movies can one watch? How many journalists can you see interview their siblings? It might be a good time to crack open a book. Or seven. One fan suggested City Limits collect readers’ book reviews to help New Yorkers read their way through the next few weeks. Send your 250- to 300-word review in below and we’ll consider adding it to this thread.


Capital and Ideology (Thomas Piketty)

Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital and Ideology, reads like a history and economics treatise, the main thesis being that extreme inequality is the basis for current social/political trends of racism and nativism that can only be changed by addressing inequality, which can only be addressed by radically redefining all property ownership as temporary.

After a thorough history lesson and exhaustive research, the author proposes building on Western European social democracy to build a system he describes as “participatory socialism” complemented by “social federalism.” Among other things, its components include redefining property subject to continual taxation to include not only real estate but all forms of financial property. He advocates repeal of all regressive/proportionate taxes in favor of progressive taxation (at levels similar to the postwar years) and for tax regimens to include income, wealth and inheritance. Once expanded, he proposes an annual basic income to every person and a universal one-time “capital endowment” upon reaching young adulthood (using 60 percent of the average per person national income as an example).

There is much more to his model, including co-management practices, educational reform, election reform, re-writing treaties, forming intra-national assemblies, and ensuring that all international financial transactions are transparent so as to be subject to taxation. There are problems with some of his proposals but one very compelling aspect to Piketty’s proposals stands out.  As opposed to “replacing” capitalism with socialism, the author seeks to “transcend” capitalism, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of simply replacing one system for another and thereby trading one source of popular oppression for another.

In spite of its length (well over 1,000 pages), this is a worthwhile read and one for which the reader should take the author’s suggestion of not simply jumping to the final chapter but instead making an exercise of reading the entire book. -Harry DeRienzo


Social Distancing Booklist

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