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Economics of Inequality (Master PPD & APE, Paris School of Economics) Thomas Piketty Academic year 2014-2015. Lecture 2: The dynamics of capital/income ratios: private vs public capital (Tuesday Sept ember 30 th 2014) (check on line for updated versions).

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Lecture 2: The dynamics of capital/income ratios: private vs public capital

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Lecture 2 the dynamics of capital income ratios private vs public capital

Economics of Inequality(Master PPD & APE, Paris School of Economics)Thomas PikettyAcademic year 2014-2015

Lecture 2: The dynamics of capital/income ratios: private vs public capital

(Tuesday September 30th 2014)

(check on line for updated versions)


The very long run britain and france 1700 2010

The very long-run: Britain and France 1700-2010

  • Long tradition of national wealthestimates in Britain and France in the 18th-19th centuries: Britain: Petty, King, Giffen, etc.; France: Vauban, Lavoisier, Colson, etc.

  • National balance sheets: estimates of all assets and liabilitiesheld by residents of a country (and by the government) (« Bilans patrimoniaux par pays »)

  • Theseestimates are not sufficientelyprecise to study short-run fluctuations; but they are fine to studybroadorders of magnitudes and long-runevolutions

  • See « Capital is Back – Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700-2010 », 2013, Data Appendix, Database, for detailedbibliography and methodological issues


Lecture 2 the dynamics of capital income ratios private vs public capital

  • Longestseries: Britain and France national wealth/national income ratio βn=Wn/Y over 1700-2010

  • National wealthWn = Privatewealth W + Public (or government) wealthWg

  • Wn = Domestic capital K + Net foreignassets NFA

  • Domestic capital K = agricultural land + residentialhousing + otherdomestic k (=offices, structures, machines, patents, etc. used by firms and administrations)

  • Two major facts: (1) huge U-shapedcurve: βn≈700% over 1700-1910, down to 200-300% around 1950, up to 500-600% in 2000-2010

    (2) Radical change in the nature of wealth (agricultural land has been graduallyreplaced by housing, business and financial capital), but total value of wealthdid not change much in the very long run


The rise and fall of foreign assets

The rise and fall of foreignassets

  • NFA close to 0 in 1700-1800 and 1950-2010, but very large in 1870-1910 = the height of the « first globalization » and of colonial empires

  • In 1910, NFA≈200% of Y in UK, ≈100% in France

  • Theseenormous net foreignassetsdisappearedbetween 1910 and 1950 and neverreappeared (but large cross-border gross positions developedsince 1970s-80s: « second globalization »)

  • 2010: Y ≈ 30 000€, Wn ≈ 180 000€ (βn≈ 6), including 90 000€ in housing and 90 000€ in otherdomestic k (financialassetsinvested in firms and govt)

  • 1700: assume Y ≈ 30 000€, thenWn ≈ 210 000€ (βn≈ 7), including 150 000€ in agricultural land and 60 000€ in housing and otherdomestic capital

  • 1910 (UK): assume Y ≈ 30 000€, thenWn ≈ 210 000€ (βn≈ 7), including 60 000€ in housing, 90 000€ in otherdomestic capital and 60 000€ in net foreignassets


Lecture 2 the dynamics of capital income ratios private vs public capital

  • With NFA as large as 100-200% Y, the net foreign capital incomeisvery large: around 1900-1910, as large as 5% Y in France and 10% Y in Britain (average rate of return r=5%)

  • In effect, both countries were able to have permanent tradedeficits (about 2% Y in 1870-1910) and still to have a currentaccount surplus and to accumulate more foreignreserves; i.e. theywereconsuming more thantheywhatwereproducing, and at the same time theyweregettingricher

  • Two conclusions: (1) it’snice to be a owner; (2) there’s no point accumulatingtradesurpluses for ever


Private versus public wealth

Private versus public wealth

  • National wealthWn = Privatewealth W + Public wealthWg

  • Privatewealth = privateassets – privatedebt

  • Public wealth = public assets – public debt

  • Today, in mostrich countries, public wealth close to 0 (public assets ≈ public debt ≈ 100% Y), and privatewealth ≈ 95-100% of national wealth

  • But it has not always been likethis: sometime the govtowns a significant part of national wealth (20-30% in 1950s-60s in W. Europe; 80% in USSR); sometimegovtwealth<0 (hugedebt), sothatprivatewealthissignificantlylargerthan national wealth


Britain public debt and ricardian equivalence

Britain: public debt and Ricardianequivalence

  • Britain = the country with the longesthistoricalepisodes of public debt: about 200% of Y around 1810-1820 (ittook a century to reduceitbelow 50% by 1910, after a century of budget surpluses), and about 200% of Y againaround 1950 (itwasreducedfaster, thanks to inflation)

  • Bigdifferencewith France (large inflation and/or repudiationduring 1790s & World Wars 1 and 2) and Germany (the country with the largest inflation in 1910-1950, evenexcluding 1924)

  • Britainalwayspaid back itsdebt (limited inflation, except 1950-1980); thisiswhyittookso long to reducedebt, especiallyduring 19c


Lecture 2 the dynamics of capital income ratios private vs public capital

  • Q.: Whatis the impact of public debt on capital accumulation?

  • A.: It depends on how the privatesavingresponds to public deficit

  • National saving Sn = privatesaving S + public savingSg (<0 if public deficit)

  • Suppose dSg<0 (public deficit↑)

  • If dS=0 (no privatesavingresponse), thendSn<0 → decline in national wealthWn : in effect public deficitsabsorb part of privatesaving (=« crowding out »)

  • But if dS>0, i.e. privatesavingincrease in order to absorb the extra deficit, thencrowding-out mightbelimited

  • In case dS=-dSg, thendSn=0: national saving and national wealth are unaffected by public deficit

  • = apparentlywhathappened in UK 1810-1830: huge public debt, but no decline in privateinvestment; extra privatesaving by British wealthholders, sothatwe observe a rise in privatewealth, and no decline in national wealth = what Ricardo observes in 1817


Lecture 2 the dynamics of capital income ratios private vs public capital

  • Key question: whywasthere no crowding out?

  • Barro 1974: in a representative agent model, rational agents shouldanticipatethattheywillpay more taxes in the future if today’s public deficitincrease, sotheysave more in order to makereserves (for themselves or theirsuccessors) so as to paythese taxes in the future → the timing of taxes isirrelevant, « debtneutrality » (seealsoBarro 1987, Clark 2001)

  • Pb: itisunclearwhether the representative agent model makessense to studythese issues; in 19c Britain, the agents holding public debt (=top 1% or top 10% wealthholders) are not the same as thosepaying taxes (=the entire population)

  • Public debtalwaysinvolves large transfersbetweenincome groups: for highwealth agents, itisbetter to lend money than to pay taxes… as long as the debtispaid back = bigdifferencebetween 19c and 20c; will 21c be more like 19c, i.e. debtwillbepaid back?

  • Whether the Ricardianequivalenceholdsdepends on the prosperity of privatesavers, the rate of return thatthey are beingoffered, the ability of the govt to convincethemthattheywillbepaid back; in 19c UK, r washigh, and govthighlycredible


France a mixed economy in 1950 1980

France: a mixed economy in 1950-1980

  • Historically, high public debt in France wasalwaysinflatedaway (more difficultwith €)

  • In 1950, public debt<30% Y, and public assets >120% Y (public buildings + nationalizedfirms), sothat net public wealth close to 100% Y; giventhatprivatewealthwas close to 200% Y atthat time, thismeansthat in effect the govtowned about 1/3 of national wealth (and over 2/3 of large companies)

  • Same pattern in Germany 1950 (and Britain 1970) = the postwar mixed economy

  • Rise in public debt + privatization of public assetsplayed a bigrole in rise of privatewealthsince 1980 (seenext lecture)


Capital in germany

Capital in Germany

  • Samegeneral pattern as in Britain and France

  • Exceptthat NFA smaller in Germany in 1870-1910 (no colonial empire, lateindustrialization)

  • Exceptthat the level of βnislower in Germany during 1950-2010 period: lower real estateprices, lower stock marketprices (stakeholdercapitalism?)

  • Exceptthat NFA has been rising a lot in 1990s-2000s


Capital in america

Capital in America

  • Verydifferenthistorical pattern than in Europe

  • Risingβnduring 19c, almost stable in 20c

  • Level of βngenerallysmallerthan in Europe, particularly in 19c

  • Twofactors: less time to accumulate capital; lower land price (more land in volume, but less land in value)

  • NFA always close to 0 in US; but <0 in Canada


Capital and slavery in the us

Capital and slavery in the US

  • In the US 1770-1865, market value of slaves ≈ 150% of Y ≈ as much as agricultural land

  • In Southern US, slaves ≈ 300% of Y, sothat total privatewealth (incl.slaves) = as large as in Europe

  • Hugehistoricalliterature on US slavery system: Fogel, etc. (seeData Appendix)

  • Seealsorecentresearch on compensation to slave ownersafter the abolition of slavery in Britain 1833 (seeUCL project) and France (Haitidebt 1825) (seealsoGraeber, Debt – The first 5000 years)


On the value of human capital

On the value of human capital

  • Extreme case: if a tiny fraction owns the rest of the population, then the value of slaves (=human capital) canbemuchlargerthan non-human capital

  • Simple computation: assume marginal products of capital and labor are such as capital share = α (= r β) and laborshare = 1-α; if future laborincomeflows are capitalizedat the same rate r, then the value of human capital shouldbe = (1-α)/r

  • If α=30%,1-α=70%, r=5%, thenmarket value of (non-human) capital = α/r = 600%, and market value of human capital (slaves) = 1400%; total capital = 2000% (=1/r)

  • But outside slave societies, itreallydoes not makemuchsense to compute a market value of human capital: in modern legalsystems, one cannotsellone’slabor force on a permanent basis


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