Piketty’s new gilded age which isn’t

posted at 2:01 pm on April 27, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Progressive hearts are all aflutter this week, riding high on the continued coverage of Thomas Piketty and his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” which continues to fly off the virtual shelves at Amazon. To say that Piketty’s basic premise is flawed is probably too much of a compliment. Ed already looked at one of the fundamental assertions last week – that median household income had only risen 3.2% over the past three decades – and found it to be off by a factor of ten.

But there are other, deeper problems with the Piketty model. One of them is the idea that capitalism itself is flawed at its foundation, leading to some new gilded age where a handful of families always gather in and hoard the wealth for generations, leaving others to starve in the cold. Unfortunately, even people like David Brooks have bought into the concept without examining it fully.

Politically, the global wealth tax is utopian, as even Piketty understands. If the left takes it up, they are marching onto a bridge to nowhere. But, in the current mania, it is being embraced.

This is a moment when progressives have found their worldview and their agenda. This move opens up a huge opportunity for the rest of us in the center and on the right. First, acknowledge that the concentration of wealth is a concern with a beefed up inheritance tax.

We should have seen this one coming from day one. The claims regarding the horrors of income inequality had to lead to a call for a not only renewed, but expanded death tax. This, in addition to steep income taxes which Brooks claims Piketty does not support, but in fact, are part and parcel of his plan.

Mr. Piketty urges an 80% tax rate on incomes starting at “$500,000 or $1 million.” This is not to raise money for education or to increase unemployment benefits. Quite the contrary, he does not expect such a tax to bring in much revenue, because its purpose is simply “to put an end to such incomes.” It will also be necessary to impose a 50%-60% tax rate on incomes as low as $200,000 to develop “the meager US social state.” There must be an annual wealth tax as high as 10% on the largest fortunes and a one-time assessment as high as 20% on much lower levels of existing wealth. He breezily assures us that none of this would reduce economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship or innovation.

Fortunately, Dr. Joyner takes a look at several studies of the Piketty manifesto and finds that the aforementioned allegation of the new gilded age is also a non-starter. He looks at the work done by Heidi Moore, who claims that these rich capitalist families have already long since hogged up all the wealth and nobody can ever catch up.

Except, as even Krugman readily points out, none of this is true! Indeed, most of the super wealthy class in America at least are in the finance sector. Whatever other criticisms might be made of that group, that they inherited their riches is not among them.

The discussion that Piketty and others have made possible, and that Krugman and others have helped popularize, is worth having. But it’s likely to be steered in the direction of the stupid by the likes of The Guardian. That’s a pity.

Read all of that Joyner article, by the way. There’s a lot of good meat in it. But it also leads us back to the one part of the discussion which Brooks actually gets right in the previously quoted column.

Third, emphasize that the historically proven way to reduce inequality is lifting people from the bottom with human capital reform, not pushing down the top. In short, counter angry progressivism with unifying uplift.

This, in the end, is the fundamental difference between conservative and progressive solutions to income inequality. It’s true that there are many, many people in America who are doing poorly in a struggling middle class or very poorly in poverty. But the progressive solution is to narrow the gap by eating the rich and dragging them down closer to the bottom of the pool. The conservative agenda is to close the space between the tiers by creating more wealthy people through expansion of opportunity and steadying the ladder so those with the drive to succeed can join the successful at the top. It’s a rather stark contrast.


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Same old, same old.

crankyoldlady on April 27, 2014 at 2:05 PM

A Piketty buddy, through and through

Schadenfreude on April 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Mr. Piketty urges an 80% tax rate on incomes starting at “$500,000 or $1 million.” This is not to raise money for education or to increase unemployment benefits. Quite the contrary, he does not expect such a tax to bring in much revenue, because its purpose is simply “to put an end to such incomes.”

Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about my “billion dollar software empire.” If this secondary goal of mine were to ever be manifest, I give you my word I’d move it to the jungle and renounce my citizenship before I’d allow my person to be violently assaulted like that.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Das Kapital, 2nd edition.

Rix on April 27, 2014 at 2:11 PM

But, in the current mania, it is being embraced.

Really? :) A feeding frenzy? Those guys love hearing their own delusions reiterated.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about my “billion dollar software empire.” If this secondary goal of mine were to ever be manifest, I give you my word I’d move it to the jungle and renounce my citizenship before I’d allow my person to be violently assaulted like that.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Amen, brother.

Midas on April 27, 2014 at 2:12 PM

The problem never was capital, it is power. Communist models, such as the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, etc, have no accumulation of capital in any hands (except the government) but they are massive failures. Why? Because all power is concentrated in the hands of a few intellectually bankrupt thugs who use it to serve their own egos. If capitalism doesn’t work, it’s because there is too much power concentrated in the hands of the various governments levels whose agents sell it to the highest bidder, the various crony capitalists and rent-seekers. So the answer to the problem is not to hand MORE power to the same idiots who abuse it, but to spread it out in more and more hands. Let power devolve to the people.

Marxism is for dummies on April 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Conundrum: defined as something that is puzzling or confusing.

Here are six to consider:

1. America is Capitalist and greedy – yet half of the population is subsidized.
2. Half of the population is subsidized – yet they think they are victims.
3. They think they are victims – yet their representatives run the government.
4. Their representatives run the government – yet the poor keep getting poorer.
5. The poor keep getting poorer – yet they have things that people in other countries only dream about.
6. They have things that people in other countries only dream about – yet they want America to be more like those other countries.

And that pretty much sums up the USA today.

Schadenfreude on April 27, 2014 at 2:23 PM

crankyoldlady on April 27, 2014 at 2:05 PM

I see it worked for you COL. Great artwork…

OmahaConservative on April 27, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Non-workers, unite” v2.0 of the marxist manifesto

Schadenfreude on April 27, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Read all of that Joyner article, by the way. There’s a lot of good meat in it.

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

“Marxism is for dummies” is spot on!

The problem never was capital, it is power.

My gosh, it seems so obvious to me. Power is the true root of humankind-evil, whether it is money, influence, political, bureaucratic, coporate- whatever. Power is precisely what the Founding Fathers sought to keep in check. This notion of power is why I am a libertarian (small “l”).

Jazz is also spot on.

But the progressive solution is to narrow the gap by eating the rich and dragging them down closer to the bottom of the pool. The conservative agenda is to close the space between the tiers by creating more wealthy people through expansion of opportunity and steadying the ladder so those with the drive to succeed can join the successful at the top. It’s a rather stark contrast.

You cannot help the poor by dragging the rich down – though you can in a small way satisfy the green monster. It is hard for me to understand why the left does not see that the notion of opportunity and wealth are, coupled with the necessary free market checks and balances at all levels, necessary to help the poor. And why our notion of “poor” is so radically different than, say, in my Grandmother’s time. I remember seeing a picture of her, about age 3, standing barefoot on a dirt floor in the California central country.

Chuck Ef on April 27, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Progressive hearts are all aflutter this week, riding high on the continued coverage of Thomas Piketty and his new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” which continues to fly off the virtual shelves at Amazon

…I looked in the “FICTION” section…and couldn’t find it!

KOOLAID2 on April 27, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Alternate book, upon a Sunday

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its ice-field, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

The Gods of the Copybook Headings v/Kipling Society

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:34 PM

No wonder they want to take our guns away…part deux.

Wyznowski on April 27, 2014 at 2:36 PM

I see it worked for you COL. Great artwork…

OmahaConservative on April 27, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Thank you. You’re very kind.

crankyoldlady on April 27, 2014 at 2:37 PM

I’m going to go out and assume that he wrote this book for free and has no intention of making any profits on this book in excess of his utopian $200K level? Or is he going to give the proceeds to his favorite charity (the government I can only assume)?

Mo_mac on April 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Cannot say it any better than this:

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Winston Churchill

He should add “and tens of million dead.”

jukin3 on April 27, 2014 at 2:39 PM

There may be different incomes, but income “inequality” does not belong in an economic argument.

lilium479 on April 27, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

There’s really no way I’m buying that book.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

There’s really no way I’m buying that book.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Dittoes…

OmahaConservative on April 27, 2014 at 2:46 PM

As a youth I always thought it strange that God had reconciled to rank covetousness so vile as to put it in the Top 10 of His commands.

But here, “enlightened” human nature itself is the blessed proof. QED. To the end of complete global unraveling, were certain people to have their way.

In fact, you could take dishonoring the last 3 commands–stealing, bearing false witness and coveting–and more or less build yourself a tidy, modern day leftist mantra.

somewhatconcerned on April 27, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Here is a fad economist lite that the left is putting on a temporary flimsy faddy pedestal.

BUT WAIT! Here’s the entire right (not just HA) coming to help lift this monkey to even greater heights by dedicating article after article to “debunking” his esoteric neo marxist blatherings.

But if they just ignored the pip squeak he’d be gone by next month with only NPR giving a sht about what he says.

I bet we will get his john stewart, bill mahr interview posted on HA and maybe we’ll be treated to him dancing the dougie on Ellen.

I don’t know why conservatives are giving this dude so much time. The capitalist vs socialist(Marxist/communist) debate IS settled science. There is a mountain of evidence and bodies that prove the failures of top down utopianism. Act like it people! We should be like Gore to the “global warming deniers”. We should be shocked that the cocktail set is getting all dizzy for some rehashed communism. We don’t have to argue point by point with their latest guru’s manifesto. Treat them like crazy people and leave it at that.

If we have to fight communism as a doctrine here in America in 2014 then what difference at this point does it make?

If some guy is walking around preaching the millionth permutation of this failed dogma then it should be easy to ignore him. The rest of the country will ignore him as well.. that is, unless you give him attention that he doesn’t deserve. This is my last post(ever) about this guy.

BoxHead1 on April 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Wheeler’s list just keeps on growing.

Cleombrotus on April 27, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Political parties want to stay in power, therefore they need more of whom it is they represent. Based on that, conservatives and the Repubs want to make more rich people, and progressives / liberals / Marxists and the Dems want to make more poor people.

DublOh7 on April 27, 2014 at 2:55 PM

The left has never shown why, in the name of equality, it is just or moral to harm the poor in order to make the rich less rich.

In the end perfect equality will be achieved when we are all dead.

Rich H on April 27, 2014 at 3:13 PM

I have never witnessed so much envy, jealousy and scorn directed at successful people in my entire life as I am in this day and age. The attempts to justify these negative attitudes are never-ending. This is just another example. Marxism is on the march, despite a higher than ever quality of life for most Americans and a mass reduction in worldwide poverty over the 2 or 3 decades. It’s frightening.

Corporal Tunnel on April 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM

To abolish such incomes you must abolish the freedom of contract.

To do that requires a totalitarian regime.

And for all their pomp and glory, they become decadent, debauched and collapse due to the corrosive effects of the regime.

Thus the attempt to abolish such freedom is pure and unadulterated evil and demonstrates a hatred for one’s fellow man because you do not wish him to be free.

ajacksonian on April 27, 2014 at 3:18 PM

I read an essay somewhere that said think of making money as a talent. Some people have more money making talent then others do. It really helps the whole conversation. Now lets turn to sports! How do we equalize the money making talent of Lebron James? Or Tom Brady? It just isn’t fair that they have so much more money making talent than me! It isn’t fair that they have so much more sports talent either. Or Rush Limbaugh, he obviously has more money making talent than I do and I should be given my own radio show, or do we somehow tax his talent? What would that even mean? Absurd.

I think the whole area of sports is fruitful ground for showing the absurdity of liberal policies.
1. Sports teams should have equal representation of racial diversity that you see in the general population. Racial diversity in of itself is a goal to be accomplished and is more important than mere winning and losing.
2. To be fair no team should be allowed to win a championship two years in a row. And maybe not again until every other team has had a turn!! Works on the playground, or in some little leagues.
3. No player should be allowed to win a scoring championship two years in a row. Every other year that scoring championship has to be won by someone of a different race than the year before.
4. Players on a team have to pool their earnings together and every player gets paid the same. Hmmm, this might still allow an unfair advantage to some teams where their overall payroll is higher. Okay, all players in that league regardless of talent or geographical location have to be paid exactly the same.

odannyboy on April 27, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Schad and ‘Marx…”, ya’ll rock! Got it exactly right. I am humbled.

vnvet on April 27, 2014 at 3:19 PM

It’s true that there are many, many people in America who are doing poorly in a struggling middle class or very poorly in poverty. But the progressive solution is to narrow the gap by eating the rich and dragging them down closer to the bottom of the pool.

The progressive solution is the root of the problem. It involves much more than hatred of the rich. It is hatred of private enterprise itself.

rickv404 on April 27, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Good grief, but leftists are not only delusional – worthy of institutionalization – but dangerous. Economy-ruining, generations-of-destruction level dangerous.

Midas on April 27, 2014 at 3:38 PM

I used to be far more ‘live and let live’; nowadays, if I were to become ruler of this fair land, this kind of behavior and tendency might be seen as a clear and present danger to the country, the economy, the millions of citizens living here, etc.

Midas on April 27, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Iowahawk completely demolished the “eat the rich” model of punitive and confiscatory taxation. That is, he anticipated and demolished Piketty. Bill Whittle took Iowahawk’s argument and made a video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=661pi6K-8WQ

Send it your progressive friends. Case closed.

rrpjr on April 27, 2014 at 3:49 PM

if I were to become ruler of this fair land, this kind of behavior and tendency might be seen as a clear and present danger to the country, the economy, the millions of citizens living here, etc.

Midas on April 27, 2014 at 3:42 PM

The Left is the enemy of any hope of a sane and happy human existence. Maybe some day our side will figure it out.

rrpjr on April 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

There’s really no way I’m buying that book.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Dittoes…

OmahaConservative on April 27, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Piketty seems like the kind of guy that wouldn’t mind one of us buying a single downloaded copy for a few dozen of us, right?

slickwillie2001 on April 27, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Mr. Piketty urges an 80% tax rate on incomes starting at “$500,000 or $1 million.” This is not to raise money for education or to increase unemployment benefits. Quite the contrary, he does not expect such a tax to bring in much revenue, because its purpose is simply “to put an end to such incomes.”

Barry said something very close to this to Joe the Plumber.

slickwillie2001 on April 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Not worth a penny.

The ‘preacher’ of global taxation is taking all the money from the book, in capitalist fashion, laughing his azz off at you, all the way to the bank. Schadenfreude, pure!!!

Schadenfreude on April 27, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Is anyone as self loathing as David Brooks? Why doesn’t he just admit to being a man of the Left and stop torturing himself?

Cindy Munford on April 27, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Funny, I don’t see the likes of Harry Reid, Charles Rangel, Pelosi or any of the Kennedy clan pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy. I’m pretty sure that their satraps in Hollyweed feel the same way.

GarandFan on April 27, 2014 at 5:02 PM

I bet we will get his john stewart, bill mahr interview posted on HA and maybe we’ll be treated to him dancing the dougie on Ellen.

BoxHead1 on April 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

until he goes after their money :) ..

jimver on April 27, 2014 at 5:14 PM

I’m still trying to figure out what is wrong with income inequality.

NOMOBO on April 27, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Maybe a pirated e-book might be out for this pile of self-serving crappola, but it’s not like I’m arsed to find it.

Sekhmet on April 27, 2014 at 5:46 PM

Cannot say it any better than this:

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Winston Churchill

He should add “and tens of million dead.”

jukin3 on April 27, 2014 at 2:39 PM

I think they are well over 100 Million victims served by now.

Johnnyreb on April 27, 2014 at 5:50 PM

I’m still trying to figure out what is wrong with income inequality.

NOMOBO on April 27, 2014 at 5:21 PM

There isn’t anything wrong with income inequality.

I think you only have a problem when you have opportunity inequality. Or, outright suppression of opportunity. Either on of those will cause big problems.

trigon on April 27, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Havent read the book, and I am dubious of his prescriptions. However, it does appear to be true that capital gains have outstripped wage income as sources of wealth.

Real incomes from wages, adjusted for inflation and in the context of weakening dollars and rising prices are not growing fast enough.

The Chamber of Commerce types always say they will give capital owners immense leeway so they can create many low paying jobs so that someone can get “experience”. The alternative is fewer high paying jobs which supposedly takes the ladder to billionaire status away from the serfs. Despite the theories out there, the jobs disappeared and the wages still stayed low.

Like a black hole, capital being thrown around will suck up more activity than wages. Just like its impossible to expect a single person to rule 300 million, it is impossible to expect a select few with most of the capital to be able to run an economy of 300 million.

Trickle down expects the select few will spend this money most wisely and it will benefit the serfs. Seems to not have happened.

antisense on April 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Havent read the book, and I am dubious of his prescriptions. However, it does appear to be true that capital gains have outstripped wage income as sources of wealth.

Real incomes from wages, adjusted for inflation and in the context of weakening dollars and rising prices are not growing fast enough.

The Chamber of Commerce types always say they will give capital owners immense leeway so they can create many low paying jobs so that someone can get “experience”. The alternative is fewer high paying jobs which supposedly takes the ladder to billionaire status away from the serfs. Despite the theories out there, the jobs disappeared and the wages still stayed low.

Like a black hole, capital being thrown around will suck up more activity than wages. Just like its impossible to expect a single person to rule 300 million, it is impossible to expect a select few with most of the capital to be able to run an economy of 300 million.

Trickle down expects the select few will spend this money most wisely and it will benefit the serfs. Seems to not have happened.

antisense on April 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Your statements only work if you think that the creation of wealth is a zero sum game. It is not. There is no finite sum of “wealth” just laying around to be taken by whoever gets their first or whoever is the richest or has the most assets to being with. Sure they have an advantage, but it is not absolute. Tell that to Steve Jobs or that Gates fellow back when they first started out. IBM and Ma Bell and a few others were the big fat cats then and look what happened.

Anyone can create wealth, unfortunately almost half of the population of the US has accepted they are dependent on others and are OK with that. Until that changes and everyone has some skin in the game, the bottom half is going to stagnate because they don’t care. They know their are living relatively easy on other peoples money and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

Johnnyreb on April 27, 2014 at 6:33 PM

The conservative agenda is to close the space between the tiers by creating more wealthy people through expansion of opportunity and steadying the ladder so those with the drive to succeed can join the successful at the top.

Which is why it won’t work. Pessimism or realism?

EvilMonk on April 27, 2014 at 7:37 PM

Yeah Lets Blame it on Capitalism….. Right

Let me take you back to the years 1989 and 1990. These were the years that most of us remember as the time when socialism collapsed in Eastern Europe and Russia. Events of that time flew in the face of all predications on the right that these were permanent regimes that would never change unless they were bombed back to the Stone Age. On the left, it was widely believed, even in those times, that these societies were actually doing quite well and would eventually pass the United States and Western Europe in prosperity, and, by some measures, they were already better off than us.

And yet it collapsed. Even the Berlin Wall, that symbol of oppression and slavery, was torn down by the people themselves. It was not only glorious to see socialism collapse. It was thrilling from a libertarian point of view to see how states themselves can dissolve. They may have all the guns and all the power, and the people have none of those, and yet, when the people themselves decide that they will no longer be governed, the state has few options left. It eventually collapses amid a society-wide refusal to believe its lies any longer.

When these closed societies suddenly became open, what did we see? We saw lands that time forgot. The technology was backwards and broken. The food was scarce and disgusting. The medical care was abysmal. The people were unhealthy. Property was polluted. It was also striking to see what had happened to the culture under socialism. Many generations had been raised under a system built on power and lies, and so the cultural infrastructure that we take for granted was not secure. Such notions as trust, promise, truth, honesty, and planning for the future — all pillars of commercial culture — had become distorted and confused by the ubiquity and persistence of the statist curse.

Why am I going through these details about this period, which most of you surely do remember? Simply to say this: most people did not see what you saw. You saw the failure of socialism. This is what I saw.

This is what anyone who had been exposed to the teachings of economics — to the elementary rules concerning cause and effect in society — saw. But this is not what the ideological left saw. The headlines in the socialist publications themselves proclaimed the death of undemocratic Stalinism and looked forward to the creation of a new democratic socialism in these countries.

As for regular people neither attached to the socialist idea nor educated in economics, it might have appeared as nothing more than a glorious vanquishing of America’s foreign policy enemies. We built more bombs than they did, so they finally gave in, the way a kid says “uncle” on a playground. Maybe some saw it as a victory of the U.S. constitution over weird and foreign systems of despotism. Or perhaps it was a victory for the cause of something like free speech over censorship, or the triumph of ballots over bullets.

Now, if the proper lessons of the collapse had been conveyed, we would have seen the error of all forms of government planning. We would have seen that a voluntary society will outperform a coerced one anytime. We might see how ultimately artificial and fragile are all systems of statism compared to the robust permanence of a society built on free exchange and capitalist ownership. And there is another point: the militarism of the cold war had only ended up prolonging the period of socialism by providing these evil governments the chance to stimulate unfortunate nationalist impulses that distracted their domestic populations from the real problem. It was not the cold war that killed socialism; rather, once the cold war had exhausted itself, these governments collapsed of their own weight from internal rather than external pressure.

In short, if the world had drawn the lessons we should have from these events. In one great moment of history, the contest between capitalism and central planning would have been decided for all time.

I must say that it was more of a shock to me, that the essential economic message was lost on most people. Indeed, it made very little difference in the political spectrum at all. The contest between capitalism and central planning continued as it always had, and even intensified here at home. The socialists among us, if they experienced any setback at all, bounded right back, strong as ever, if not more so. If you doubt it, consider that it only took a few months for these groups to start kvetching about the horrible onslaught that was being wrought by the unleashing of capitalism in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. We began hearing complaints about the rise of a hideous consumerism in these countries, about the exploitation of workers at the hands of capitalists, about the rise of the garish super rich. Piles and piles of news stories appeared about the sad plight of unemployed state workers, who, though loyal to the principles of socialism their entire lives, were now being turned out onto the streets to fend for themselves.

Not even an event as spectacular as the spontaneous meltdown of a superpower and all its client states was enough to impart the message of economic freedom. And the truth is that it was not necessary. The whole of our world is covered with lessons about the merit of economic liberty over central planning. Our everyday lives are dominated by the glorious products of the market, which we all gladly take for granted. We can open up our web browsers and tour an electronic civilization that the market created, and note that government never did anything useful at all by comparison.

What’s more, this is not a new phenomenon that we can observe in our lifetimes only. We can look at any country in any period and note that every bit of wealth ever created in the history of mankind has been generated through some kind of market activity, and never by governments. Free people create; states destroy. It was true in the ancient world. It was true in the first millennium after Christ. It was true in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. And with the birth of complex structures of production and the increasing division of labor in those years, we see how the accumulation of capital led to what might be called a productive miracle. The world’s population soared. We saw the creation of the middle class. We saw the poor improve their plight and change their own class identification.

There is another important factor here. The state thrives on an economically ignorant public. This is the only way it can get away with blaming inflation or recession on consumers, or claiming that the government’s fiscal problems are due to our paying too little in taxes. It is economic ignorance that permits the regulatory agencies to claim that they are protecting us as versus denying us choice. It is only by keeping us all in the dark that it can continue to start war after war, violating rights abroad and smashing liberties at home, in the name of spreading freedom.

There is only one force that can put an end to the successes of the state, and that is an economically and morally informed public. Otherwise, the state can continue to spread its malicious and destructive policies.

roflmmfao

donabernathy on April 27, 2014 at 9:32 PM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

There’s really no way I’m buying that book.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Dittoes…

OmahaConservative

And this is why they invented the public library!

werewife on April 27, 2014 at 10:01 PM

antisense on April 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Sorry, but that’s just stupid. Business folk can read the signs as well as the CBO and FED. Yellin can print ALL the money she wants. Won’t create sales. Stock buybacks maybe, but not sales.

Student loans. The only place americans are willing to take Yellin at her word.

WryTrvllr on April 27, 2014 at 11:11 PM

There’s really no way I’m buying that book.

Axe on April 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM

You B@st@rd! Maybe if you had actually read it, all those millions need not have died.

WryTrvllr on April 27, 2014 at 11:15 PM

As a youth I always thought it strange that God had reconciled to rank covetousness so vile as to put it in the Top 10 of His commands.

But here, “enlightened” human nature itself is the blessed proof. QED. To the end of complete global unraveling, were certain people to have their way.

somewhatconcerned on April 27, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Let covetousness run wild and you get one of two results: insanely shallow materialism as we have now, or a group of hoarders running the show to the detriment of everyone else. Either one will destroy a nation as surely as atomic war.

We are about to find out the hard way why God commanded the death penalty for murder and sexual deviancy just for a start. If the next ‘President’ is Shrillary, we will also get a lesson on why it is a Biblical concept that MEN are supposed to be the leaders. And if Obooba has done as much damage as I think he has, we will also relearn why the Founders limited the voting demographic. (and no, libtard trolls, it wasn’t because they were mean ol’ haters)

You do not have to be a freaking Amish or Puritan leftover to smell the sizzling fuse that postmodern notions of equality has lit, nor a prophet to sense just how big is the bomb it’s connected to.

LawfulGood on April 27, 2014 at 11:17 PM

Perhaps it’s time for a new book.

“How many chickens is my cow worth?”

WryTrvllr on April 27, 2014 at 11:21 PM

antisense on April 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

So lets fix it.

We’ll end capital gains having lower taxes; tax a decade of income as though it were gained in a year when stick is sold to really crush the upper AND middle class both (as they both have capital gains).

And in return we’ll keep doing what we’re doing locking the poor into poverty.

We’ll punish the rich, punish the middle class, and not really help the poor.

Brilliant plan. Clearly once we’re [punishing most people, and helping nobody everyone will be better off.

Oh wait, the government will have more power; that’s who benefits. Lets help nobody, punish nearly everybody, and give more power to the government.

Count me out on this plan. I don’t work for the government, so it’ll hurt me instead of helping me.

gekkobear on April 28, 2014 at 2:14 AM

Jazz, I think I’ll read the book before I read anybody’s articles about it. I would suggest that all other hotair commenters do the same.

shubalstearns on April 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

I’d rather read a good history book. Picketty’s book will be selling from the 99 cent bin in a few months.

zoyclem on April 28, 2014 at 8:15 AM

“Karl Marx is the greatest economist of all time”, Bob Beckle, the 5, 4-25-14.
Peekitty charges $39.95 for the book that is trying to change our lives for the better.

Kissmygrits on April 28, 2014 at 8:46 AM

even people like David Brooks

Can that be translated into English?

Since when is David “Pants Crease” Brooks some sort of standard of skepticism on narratives from the left?

Axeman on April 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Let covetousness run wild and you get one of two results: insanely shallow materialism as we have now, or a group of hoarders running the show to the detriment of everyone else. Either one will destroy a nation as surely as atomic war.

LawfulGood on April 27, 2014 at 11:17 PM

Well said on that.

Axeman on April 28, 2014 at 10:31 AM

i say let the left give of their riches first–if it works maybe the rest of us will contribute–NOT!!!

jstan442 on April 28, 2014 at 11:03 AM

There is one and only one foundation upon which all of envy rests: altruism. Unless you reject the morality of sacrifice, you yourself are both fuel and match for the collectivist pyre. There is no middle ground. America can be saved only by discovering the “Virtue of Selfishness,” both the book and the idea by Ayn Rand. See Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for admission to state-of-the-art Western thought. And be prepared to discover that just as reason and faith are completely, utterly, and fatally incompatible so are capitalism and altruism.

WyattsTorch on April 29, 2014 at 9:29 AM