I am pleased to report that I have finally finished reading French economist Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideology. About 90% of the more than a thousand pages of the opus was a regurgitation of all of the inequality regimes throughout the span of the history of the globe. He states at the outset, “Every human society must justify its inequalities: unless reasons for them are found, the whole political and social edifice stands in danger of collapse.” In fact, except for the French Revolution (briefly and with no mention of the Jacobins and their Reign of Terror) and with a mild rebuke of the Soviet Union (they were long on politics and short on planning but with no mention of the Gulag or the deaths of millions of Kulaks), the history of the world is almost entirely “inequality regimes.”
This matches well with the theory of Walter Scheidel that each society or civilization becomes increasingly less equal over time, which he described in his book, the Great Leveler. Professor Scheidel went on to say that the only power that could stop this rising inequality was some great natural disaster (such as famine, plague or earthquake) or some great human disaster (such as war or revolution). Given the overwhelming evidence of these two books, inequality appears to have an historic inevitability. There must be some great and powerful evil force in the world that makes it so difficult to create a society based on equality. And Professor Piketty has discovered it: private property.
To the minds of progressives, wealth can only be accumulated through the exploitation of other people. This is based on Karl Marx’s Labor Theory of Value where the value of something is based on the labor put in to making it. By this theory, if a factory or shop owner makes a profit, it must be at the expense of the worker who put in the labor, which makes the profit the equivalent of theft.
Because such wealth is derived from the unjust exploitation of people, the wealth is undeserved, and it is appropriate to confiscate this wealth and distribute it to the exploited people. Professor Piketty thinks up many ways to extract wealth from rich people such as; highly progressive income taxes up to 90% of income, a progressive wealth tax that would continually reduce the assets of the wealthy, a progressive inheritance tax so that the wealthy cannot pass on wealth and its benefits to their children and even a progressive carbon tax. No wonder they are called progressives. The entire purpose of these taxes is not to provide revenue to fund government operations but to punish the wealthy and bring them down to the level of the proletariat.
And Professor Piketty has thought up many ways to distribute this confiscated wealth. Free stuff of course. Free healthcare and free education, for example. In addition to free stuff, he would provide a universal basic income to everyone. He would even take the inheritances that were taxed away from the children of the wealthy and give the money to young people as an endowment. He estimates these endowments would be around 120,000 euros each that would give the young beneficiaries an equal start in life. Professor Piketty even says that the young people could take the confiscated windfall and buy a house or start a new business (although why they would do so if it was just going to be taken away is beyond me). Or maybe they would just buy a Lamborghini, instead.
The one thing that Professor Piketty does not discuss in his book (although with a thousand pages you would think he had enough room to include it) was why people should be equal. To Professor Piketty and his fellow progressives, the question does not even come up. The book provides much greater insight into the psychology of Professor Piketty and his fellow progressives than it does into economics.
Progressives believe that everyone thinks like they do or, at least, they should think like they do. They believe that people that don’t think like they do are bad people, evil people that exploit others. But New York University psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, in his book the Righteous Mind, has shown that there are multiple moral axes and that progressive focus on only one or two of them.
Of course, people want to live in a just society. But different people have different ideas of what makes a just society. Progressives believe that the only way to have a just society is to have an egalitarian society where everybody has equal outcomes. They cannot even conceive of any other type of society. But other people, good, honest people, may believe that such a just society is not worth the loss of liberty. Professor Piketty believes in democracy, but a democracy that confiscates the property of its citizens is exactly the kind of democracy that Founder John Adams feared “would consume itself.”
Professor Piketty may believe that the enforced equality that he wishes to impose on everyone will make a better world. But many others will not see it that way. They will see it as oppression and there is no such thing as good oppression or oppression for a good cause. The historical record of attempts to create “equality regimes” is proof of the horror and death of such regimes. And it is not because of poor planning or flawed leaders.
So, what do we care what some crazy French economist thinks? Left-wing economists here in America love the book. “The most important economics book of the year – and maybe of the decade,” gushes Paul Krugman. Robert Reich calls Piketty’s analysis “breathtaking.” And it is not just the members of the dismal science that love the book.
Professor Piketty is the mentor to both Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, and they in turn were the principal economic advisors to the presidential campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The Democratic platform developed by presidential candidate Joe Biden‘s unity task force was influenced by Bernie Sanders and draws heavily from the ideas of Piketty, Zucman and Saez.
And earlier this week, US Congressman Dan Crenshaw blasted an op-ed in Teen Vogue, an online magazine owned by Conde Nast, that supported the progressive push to defund the police and made the somewhat logical deduction that if you got rid of property you would no longer need police to protect such property (although I think you might still need them to protect people). I doubt that the columnist, Kandist Mallett, has read Piketty’s book but she probably got her ideas about property from somebody who had.
I mean, bloody Teen Vogue. Aren’t they supposed to stick to teen fashion and make up? Why does this online only mag even have an op-ed page, let alone one that is pouring Marxist drivel into the vacuous minds of teenage Valley Girls? Does Anna Wintour really think that this type of brainwashing is appropriate?
Thomas Piketty states in his book that the purpose of government is to create a just society (by which he means an egalitarian society). John Locke, however, said that the purpose of government is to protect private property. This is the essence of the difference between right and left. But Locke’s contention is based on the concept that if a person cannot protect his own property (the product of all that person’s work and effort) then that person cannot be free. Piketty’s contention that a just society must eliminate private property is based on Karl Marx’s bogus Labor Theory of Value.
I do not want to live in a society that sacrifices liberty for equality. Do you? There must be a better way. Oh, there is a better way. It is called America’s Founding Principles.