Piketty: Ideology masquerading as Theory

Thomas Piketty’s book Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century has become a bestseller. It bemoans the fact that he sees the rich get richer, and the poor poorer. His answer: tax the rich until the pips squeak. Turn taxation into confiscation … set income tax rates at 80% or more. It’s unfair that money begets money, so the state must redistribute. The problem is that if there are no rich, there is no money to be-gotten.

Piketty is clearly only interested in developed countries – where he sees the inequality. Wealth is pouring out of the arrogant West, and is ending up elsewhere in the world. Living standards are improving there, at the price of those in the West. What right do we have to keep it all for ourselves, and to distribute it among people who do nothing to generate wealth? We are already seeing a redistribution of wealth. From the US, Western Europe and Japan to China, India, Russia, and who knows maybe some parts of Africa will also get the snouts in the trough. And if the wealthy can hold on to their money, then paying for the exodus of wealth will fall on the middle and lower classes in the developed world.

Even if the wealthy can’t prevent confiscation, then as we say in the Flight of the Golden Geese, much of their wealth will flee grasping jurisdictions, and anyway there simply aren’t enough rich around to fill the money pit that is emerging. A consequence will be less investment, a drop in entrepreneurship, and the centre of gravity of the world’s economy will move on to more welcoming climes.

Piketty claims to have a theoretical justification for his theories, but this is just politics of envy masquerading as the dismal science of Economics. This is ideology donning the mask of theory.

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