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Thomas Piketty wants a war (sort of)

There are already plenty of reasons to take a dim view of Piketty’s leveling ideas on wealth. Here’s another (H/T, Econlog):

I think it would be a big mistake to oppose the objective of global progressive taxation of income and wealth with the objective of class struggle and political fight, for at least two reasons. First, making this tax reform possible would require a huge mobilization. This has always been the case in the past. All the big revolutions engendered a big tax reform. Take the French Revolution, the American Revolution, or World War One: although it was not a fiscal revolution initially, through the Bolshevik Revolution, it had a huge impact on the acceptance of a progressive tax regime and more generally social welfare institutions after World War One – and even more so after World War Two. These were fiercely opposed by the elite and by the right just before these shocks, so this shows that we need a big fight and sometimes violent shocks to make progressive tax accepted. It would be a big mistake to think of progressive taxation as a technocratic process that comes quietly from a minister and experts. This is not at all the history of taxation.

The man was interviewed and had his comments published in a blog rather aptly called Potemkin (not sure how ironic that is).

Perry Metzger, who writes occasionally for Samizdata, nicely skewered Piketty’s reasoning a few months ago.

23 comments to Thomas Piketty wants a war (sort of)

  • Alsadius

    He does realize that the conservatives are the ones with all the guns, right?

  • Paul Marks

    In which case Dr Thomas Piketty should, for example, favour the Confederacy against the United States in the Civil War.

    After all the Confederate income tax was far higher and more “Progressive” than the United States one – and the Confederate regime of Jefferson Davis intended to keep the Progressive income tax after the war (had they won) to fiancé “internal improvement”.

    Whereas evil Republicans such as General Grant (later President) intended to abolish the income tax after the war, and did so.

    Also the Confederacy did not ally plutocratic “capitalists” to profit from the war – unlike the evil United States.

    In the Confederacy large scale industrial production and transport came under public control – not the “gilded age” capitalists of the north.

    Of course the Confederacy did not offer the “illusion” of freedom – being frankly based upon slavery.

    But I rather doubt that Dr Piketty would be too upset – as long as (and this the Confederacy did NOT do) and transfer all slaves to public ownership – not more private plantations.

    Indeed one could go further and declare EVERYONE a slave (in perfect equality to the collective “General Will” of Rousseau).

    I am sure Thomas Piketty would be overjoyed at such equality.

    By the way…..

    There is actually an artificial form of inequality – the “cheap money” policy of the Central Banks.

    Since the time of the Richard Cantillon it has been known that artificially trying to lend out more money than was ever really saved (expanding “broad money”) benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.

    If Thomas P. actually turned his energies to opposing this policy (rather than demanding ever higher taxes) he would do good rather than evil.

  • The economics of envy is a joke. This one:

    An angel appears in front of a man and says, “You can wish for what ever you want. One wish. Anything you wish for I will give your neighbor double.” The man thinks and then says, “Poke one of my eyes out.”

  • Snag

    In short, violence = progressive.

  • Mr Ecks

    MSimon: The same trope is used by the late Robert Sheckly in his short story “The Same to You Doubled”

    A front man for the Devil appears to the protagonist and tells him that his best friend is actually his worst enemy who secretly hates him. The Devil will give the man 3 wishes but said enemy must get double. The story follows the mans struggles to get around this until he gets a last-minute inspiration. He wishes for the woman of his dreams but adds that she must be the absolute maximum he can handle–sexually speaking.

    A good writer Sheckly.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Didn’t he get it the wrong way around? issues of taxation were the cause, rather than the consequence, of the American and French Revolutions.
    Also, the size of the State was greatly reduced after ww2, in Japan, West Germany, and Italy.

  • Laird

    Yes, he did indeed get it the wrong way around. Which seems to be his general approach to everything. But he’s certainly not alone in failing to understand anything from history. Ben Bernanke, famed for his “scholarship” about the Great Depression, clearly failed to actually understand either its causes or why it ended.

  • Paul Marks

    I missed Alasdius’ comment – it is a comforting sort.

    Yes the people with the most guns, and who use them the best, determine history.

    As “Bleeding Kansas” proved.

    And the “religious fanatic” “tools of the rich” (oh yes the pro slavery types used such propaganda against their Republican foes) rule in Kansas to this day.

  • Regional

    During the Second Transnational Unpleasantness unemployment actually rose as those in uniform were not actually gainfully employed but destroying unproductive equipment with no capital return which flies in the face of capitalism. The Second Transnational Unpleasantness saved Stalin and FDR but left a massive debt to West. Ironically the Soviet Union cleared it’s Lend Lease debt to America in the early 1990s while Astraya cleared it’s WW2 debts in 1958.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Again with the “wrong way round”, isn’t war progressed by governments with large amounts of money, from tax?

    As always, with anyone proposing bigger tax regimes, I ask what the government would do with all the extra cash? More duckhouses perhaps?

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Government NEEDS money for all the Wars we have! The War on Drugs doesn’t fund itself, you know!

  • Regional

    What is paradoxical is that drugs reduce the number of social service recipients.
    A good idea is to have local councils provide heroin, speed and cocaine from vending machines and the profit is used to provide part of the services local councils provide.

  • The War on Drugs doesn’t fund itself, you know!

    You are aware of the asset forfeiture racket in the US? And how it’s led to the hideous specter of inanimate objectes becoming defendants?

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Yes, I have read about it, but the whole point of the American Declaration was to stop a King doing stuff like that. If a Democratically-elected Government does it, that’s alright, surely?
    And these would just suppliment the various wars, surely? Who are you to begrudge a donut-addicted cop a few perks of the job?

  • EUBanana

    War is the health of the State.

  • Rob

    “global progressive taxation of income and wealth”

    Is he talking about a single world government here, receiving this tax, or is he talking about every State in the world having a ‘progressive’ tax on income and wealth?

  • JohnW

    The EU is merely the penultimate step to world government – they do not want anyone to habour the possibility of escape.

  • John Galt III

    Piketty is kind of like a Muslim. He beat the shit out of his girlfriend, Aurelie Filippetti, France’s Culture Minister, at least that’s her version:


    Maybe he can become a Muslim so beating his women can be justified by Ayah and Hadith.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Snorri Godhi @ January 22, 2015 at 7:21 pm:

    Didn’t he get it the wrong way around?

    Not really, at least regarding France.

    issues of taxation were the cause, rather than the consequence, of the American and French Revolutions.

    Tax issues were indeed a cause of the French Revolution, but tax reforms were a consequence: abolition of numerous archaic taxes and the all-but-intrinsically corrupt practice of tax farming. However, I don’t think there was an increase in taxation levels (which seems to be Piketty’s erroneous definition of “reform”.)

  • AndrewZ

    Socialist economics is a collection of elaborate recipes for cooking the goose that lays golden eggs.

  • JohnnyL

    This isn’t anything really new for Piketty. In his book and subsequent interviews he said that the use of force (military or economic sanctions) may be necessary against low tax countries in order to bring them into line in a progressive wealth and tax regime.

    It’s become increasingly obvious that his book was written to provide a rational for his tax ideas and that his prescriptions were not a result of his research.

  • Nicholas (Natural Genius) Gray

    Mr. Ecks- the devilish way to beat the wish would be to give the neighbour two women, so he can take turns, thus leaving the wisher doubly frustrated. Or his neighbour may just naturally have twice the stamina of the ‘hero’. The Devil always rigs the deck.