Capital in the Twenty-First Century: A Critique of Thomas Piketty's Political Economy
Agenda - A Journal of Policy Analysis and Reform, Vol 21, No 1
24 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2015
Date Written: November 20, 2014
The argument by Piketty and others that there is growing inequality and this is causing damage is not new. But regardless of who is running this argument, it is significantly flawed. The poor have definitely improved their situation, especially if taxes and income support are included, in many countries in the developing world and the US. A focus on inequality to the exclusion of poverty glosses over the large successes over recent decades. It paints a false picture of decline when large improvements have occurred.
To the extent there have been increases in executive wages, this has probably been driven by technology and globalisation, not by poor corporate governance. And the returns to wealth being (relatively) high should be expected given the riskiness of owning wealth, and is actually necessary to ensure that investment occurs.
Piketty’s (implied) argument that investment is bad should be dismissed out of hand, as should his argument that high taxes are required on wealth. Instead, the problems generated by ‘unfairly’ acquired wealth should be addressed by removing rents. Policymakers should consider broadening the ownership of capital and assisting those who are in genuine need, and reject proposals that pander to envy.
Keywords: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Inequality, Executive Salaries, Capital Taxation
JEL Classification: D31, D33, J31, J38, H2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation