April 26, 2014
Piketty’s central thesis is that the world has returned to its pre-World War I norms of extended periods of slow growth that will result in a further stratification of wealth in which the 0.1 percent fare better than everyone else. This is not because of the Occupy theory that the economy is rigged in an evil way to help them. It’s because of Piketty’s theory that during extended periods of slow growth, the mega rich will see their sophisticated investments in capital (stocks and other financial instruments) gain more share of a society’s wealth than everyone else accumulates through their earnings (salaries).
Many economists on the left love this thesis as providing a grand theoretical way to understand how the world has come to be the way it is — a way they don’t like. Paul Krugman leads the way, proclaiming, “This is a book that will change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics.”
It’s gotten respectful reviews from some free-market economists, and some pretty good takedowns, starting with Tyler Cowen’s essay. (Here’s a round-up of links.)
But whether you think it’s hooey or too high-falutin’ or just arcane, if you’re a believer in Proposition 13, Piketty’s emergence gives you fabulous ammo with which to shoot back at the George Skeltons, Peter Schrags and Harold Meyersons — all the lefty pundits who say it is the prime evil force driving California’s downfall. Piketty says states that have property taxes that penalize homowners if their homes increase in value are imposing what amounts to “America’s secret middle-class tax.”
I guess he’d be for indexing of income tax rates, too, then.