‘I don’t have time to write a short letter, so I’ve written a long one instead’. So said American statesman and polymath Benjamin Franklin. Or was it George Bernard Shaw? The source of this quotation is actually rather contested. It’s also been attributed to Churchill and Mark Twain.
Wherever it came from, this pithy aphorism captures what every decent author knows instinctively. Producing a concise, penetrating piece of writing does indeed take a lot more talent and effort than cobbling together an extended marathon of loose, ill-defined prose. This quotation sprung to mind as I recently read Economics of Inequality, a new book by the French academic de nos jours, Thomas Piketty.