There are some things, it seems, that each generation has to discover for itself. Every generation eventually realizes that its parents weren’t as dumb as they assumed, that saving money makes sense, and that socialism is nothing but a glorious failure.
Right now, much of the world is enthralled with French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book titled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Salon magazine calls it a “game-changer.”
“Piketty is a symbol of the increasing consensus among academic economists and political scientists about inequality and democracy,” the magazine reports. “This consensus, which has been demonstrated in innumerable studies, reports and books already, establishes a few propositions: Inequality has been increasing in the United States over the past three decades. This inequality has been defined particularly by an explosion among the very top, be it the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent (or even the .01 percent).
“This concentration of economic power has coincided with an increase in political power for the wealthiest Americans.”
The left has delighted in Piketty’s prescriptions.
“The owners of this country, those who profit off of lung cancer, environmental degradation and political capture, are very worried that we learn their tricks,” Salon adds. “They did not create wealth, they stole it, and continue to accumulate it. As Marx noted, the default position of capitalist societies is ever more inequality and accumulation.”
Piketty’s soft socialism is seen in his recommendations for huge taxes on wealth (in addition to income).
He recommends tax rates as much as 80 percent on the wealthy, with the revenues going to fund even more massive social spending.
“Piketty could also profit from a history lesson,” counters economist Stephen Moore. “We have had high tax rates of 70 percent and 80 percent in the U.S., and they didn’t create the days of wine and roses for the middle class. When the tax rate hit 90 percent in the early 1960s, it was President Kennedy who argued for cutting the rates to grow the economy. Ronald Reagan made the same case in the 1980s. These tax-rate cuts were followed by two epic periods of prosperity in America. And tax payments by the rich soared when tax rates came down.”
The real problem here is that Piketty is simply the latest person to come along and rediscover socialism.
We’ll grant Piketty some ground right now — socialism is a great idea. How wonderful a world we would live in, if each person contributed what he could, and took only what he needed.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in the real world, in which people want to be rewarded for their work — or else, they won’t do it. Socialism denies one fundamental flaw in human nature — people are selfish. If their reward is guaranteed, they’ll only work as hard as they have to. Plus, they’re greedy. They’ll take whatever they can.
Thomas Piketty is enjoying the spotlight for now. But soon, someone should direct his attention to the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela.
That’s where socialism leads, he’ll discover.