Capitalism and inequality

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January 29, 2014 by Tamara Piety

There is this interesting piece in the New York Times, Capitalism v. Democracy, reporting on French economist, Thomas Piketty’s observation in his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” that inequality is not an artifact of some market failures but a structural feature of capitalism and that we should expect more of the same for the next century. Or words to that effect.

There is some dispute about how much of a blockbuster this new book is but apparently something like agreement that it is based on good evidence and sound arguments.

If so, it is exceedingly gloomy. It suggests that political and social instability from rising levels of income inequality is rather like climate instability, already here and worse impossible to avoid. I rather hope that part is wrong.

But that might be wishful thinking.

One observer notes that changes to intellectual property law may have some ameliorating effect. It seems to me that changes to the way marketing is regulated may as well.  But such measures may be too small to make a difference.

Picketty advises a global wealth tax. Since a global tax is wildly unlikely things do not look good for democracy – particularly where capital’s role in the political process, at least in the United States, before, and especially after Citizens United, is so profound.


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