he 2008 financial crisis is widely credited with reviving the American left, from the tent cities of Occupy Wall Street to the proliferating chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America. Yet it is not just street protesters and millennial Marxists who have put capitalism under scrutiny: Liberal pundits and policy-makers have also become analysts of capitalism’s ailments. Since Thomas Piketty’s 2013 breakout hit, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the publishing industry has churned out new books on capitalism, inequality, and economics at a furious pace.
The past two years alone have seen the publication of Piketty’s follow-up, Capital and Ideology; Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez’s The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay; Heather Boushey’s Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It; and Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, to name just a few. Even capitalism’s erstwhile champions now find themselves on the back foot: None other than globalization’s manic hype man Thomas Friedman has turned to mea culpa, admitting that “we broke the world” by letting capitalism run too rampant. (“We”?)