The surprise success of the French economist Thomas Piketty’s income disparity blockbuster Capital in the 21st Century has forced battlelines to be drawn in the world of political economics.
Piketty’s unremarkable contention, after having crawled through two centuries of data, is that the inequitable distribution of wealth in Western society has now led to an intolerable state of affairs. The super-rich have arranged matters so that almost all of a nation’s economic growth is delivered into their bank accounts.
If you do not read anything else from Piketty’s tome, read this: “From 1977 to 2007, the richest 10 percent appropriated three-quarters of the growth. The richest 1 percent alone absorbed nearly 60 percent of the total increase of U.S. national income in this period.”
It is hardly surprising, considering the economic policies put into effect by both Republicans and Democrats, that the rich are becoming richer. Aggressive, highly funded lobbying on behalf of big business, those who run big business and those who benefit from big business has ensured that progressive taxation, where the rich pay more tax than the poor to make society more fair, has been largely abandoned. Increasing the fortunes of a few individuals at the cost of those who make the wealth has become not just an economic imperative, but a political credo, too.
I have no reason to doubt Piketty’s research. There have been few methodical attempts to discover what economic data suggest over the last two centuries. He appears to have crunched the numbers appropriately and found a pattern of behavior that he believes is both immoral and is holding back economic growth.