Le economiste fashioniste, Thomas Piketty, is in town and my generous wife thought tickets to his talk would be a wonderful present for me. I appreciated the thought, but said I’d rather she burned the cash in front of me.
Her heart was in the right place: she knew he was a left-wing economist, but thought I would still be interested in hearing what he had to say. But it is unlikely he would say anything new, and the event would turn into a love-in where everyone agreed with everyone else about the inherent evils of capitalism. Not a fun afternoon… nor an informative one.
Piketty has achieved extraordinary (and inexplicable) popularity through his turgid tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which tries to explain why inequality is growing in many countries and what can be done about it.
Unfortunately for Piketty, most — if not all — of his arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny. I have written two detailed critiques of his book, and there are many more. Inequality on a global scale is declining not increasing; and to the extent it is increasing it is largely due to housing not the growth in capital owned by the rich. And his ‘solution’ of massive tax increases would be impossible to implement and would slash growth.
But don’t expect to see too many of these flaws raised in the ‘soft’ interviews already occurring, or at any events during his tour.
Michael Potter is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies