I just watched the video, online, of an event at the City University of New York at which Piketty spoke and then Stiglitz, Krugman, and several others commented. I thought Krugman was the most coherent of the commentators, by the way. As I watched, something struck me that I wanted to say a few words about. [I managed to lose the URL. Can anyone supply it in a comment?]
To put it as simply as I can, nobody was angry. I mean, Piketty's data are simply appalling. I observed at length on this obscure blog [as Bjorn calls it] that according to Piketty the bottom half of the population of all modern capitalist societies has no net wealth at all, and the concentration of increasingly inherited wealth at the very, very top is appalling and grows steadily worse. Yet not a single voice at this session was raised in anger. Indeed, not a single voice was raised in anything. All was witty, amused, relaxed, casual. The speakers were comfortable in their skins and were talking to an audience of people equally comfortable. Everything in the format and atmospherics of the event communicated quite clearly that anger would be considered very much out of place.
That is just awful! I have every reason to believe that Stiglitz and Krugman have their hearts in the right place when it comes to evaluations of the desirability of this sort of inequality, but both of these gentlemen, accomplished as they are, seem to have lost the capacity for simple outrage.
This is one of the things I don't like about what the academic world has become.