While an anxious world holds their collective breath over the disturbing events in the Ukraine and elsewhere, these are high times for the political left. With the revelation that the latest Marx re-boot, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has reached the top of the best sellers list, progressives at long last have found (ironically enough) the commercial justification for their self-righteousness. While French academic Thomas Piketty’s views have leftists waxing poetically on social justice, his work reveals the more sinister instinct of using taxation as a punitive weapon of class warfare rather than a means for combating income equality.
While Thomas Piketty’s laborious exploration of capitalism reflect a deep appreciation for the socialist bible, Das Kapital, it would be unfair to label him a Marxist. The reasons for this are not in his obligatory concessions to the indispensability of capitalism for wealth creation, but in that he barely mentions how his proposal will improve the lives of the masses he claims to champion. This is an impressive feat to accomplish in a six hundred page labor of love.
Judging by the reaction of the left-wing punditry, that he fails to address this key component to his economic theories is of little consequence. Apparently the instant that 80 percent taxation rates on those with an annual incomes north of $500,000 is proposed, progressives found themselves in a collective swoon.
In her now-famous speech on the floor of the British House of Commons, the late Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher beautifully described the socialist obsession against wealth when she pointed out that the left would be more than willing to see the real incomes of the poor decrease so long as the wealthy became “less rich.” Piketty confirms Mrs. Thatcher’s assessment, albeit unintentionally, throughout his exhausting dissertation as he uses data and statistics to point out not a decline in the standard of living for the poor, but rather the gulf between their wealth and that of the world’s elite.
This obsession can be found in the “solutions” he proposes in his book, which mirror that of his progressive brethren in the political arena. Not since Lady Thatcher have the instincts of the left been as clearly revealed as they are in Thomas Piketty’s calls to use taxation as a punitive weapon against the so-called rich. Rather than viewing tax rates as a necessary evil (as is acknowledged by conservatives and taxpayers alike) to provide the needed revenue to fund government, progressives tend to look at the issue as does the mystery writer who drafts a conclusion to their novel and builds on their story from there.
It is precisely this psychosis which is the cause of both spiraling government debt and the rise of income inequality that Mr. Piketty and his ideological allies bemoan. Rather than viewing the free market as a means to upward mobility, and the engine that creates opportunities for people to better their lot in life, they view it as a wild beast which must be held in check, lest it wreak havoc on the lives of the poor.
For many of us on the right of the political spectrum, we view this perspective at best as naive and at worst damaging to the upward mobility of the poor and working class members of society. If idle time is the devils plaything, idle money in the hands of the bureaucracy is equally wrought with danger. The laws of nature are fairly consistent. Once an entity is created, its primary function is to sustain life and thrive. This applies to a government agency just as it does to the cockroach or our own species.
Rather than determining what amount of revenue is needed to fund government and setting tax rates accordingly to provide for this funding without jeopardizing the economic engine which create the opportunities needed for upward mobility of the citizenry, the left attempts to draw income away from the wealthy in order to rectify what they see as the source of social inequity. By doing so, they only exacerbate the problem by attacking the source of capital which creates jobs and opportunities to assist in improving one’s consequence of birth.
This backward approach creates a wicked domino effect of less economic growth, generating a greater need for social services and the bureaucratic structure to administer this assistance. Once established, this structure will naturally desire growth, requiring more and more funding and “customers” (in the form of more indigent citizens) to sustain this growth. Luckily for the left, by confiscating the wealth of the rich they are able to secure the funding for the infrastructure and create the conditions to justify its existence.
It is precisely this vicious cycle which conservative economists cite as the cause for both our runaway spending at the income equality that leftists such as Piketty rail against. It is telling that while he goes on at length citing data (often from dubious sources) and creating formulas to argue the injustice of wealth creation without detailing how his proposed solutions will improve the lot in life of those less fortunate. The instinctive view of Thomas Piketty and the left is that by using taxation as a punitive weapon against the wealthy we will improve the lives of the poor. They of course feel no obligation to explain how this improvement will occur, they will simply point to Piketty’s book sales and inevitable Pulitzer (and possibly Nobel) Prize as proof positive their views are self-evident.
By Paul Winters