How anyone can argue this when the past three centuries have given us an explosion of democratic freedom and an elevation of the livelihoods of numbers of humans unprecedented in the history of the species, I have no idea. Nor can I see why anyone needed to offer policy proposals to mitigate this “problem”, which apparently has very few measurable downsides. That’s why the whole problem with the Piketty-driven conversation that frustrates me has to do with the right’s response thus far, and the concession that this type of inequality even matters. So what if the rate of return on capital reproduces itself faster than the rate of return on labor – in real life, the money doesn’t stay in Scrooge McDuck’s vault, it goes into investments which pay more people to do more things. Piketty doesn’t think this will happen – he projects economic growth at levels lower than anything we’ve seen since the industrial revolution. You’ve got to be a pretty high-level doomsayer – well beyond the “machines are going to take our jobs and our birthrates will be zero” – to believe that sort of thing.
If you’re not an economist, you may know inequality of outcome by another term: life. In any society, what you earn over the course of your life is unequal to others and ought to be unequal to others because you are not others, you are you. Your earnings will be unequal to that of others, because you are a different person with different skills and different work ethic and different priorities. In a free society, these earnings will be largely due to your own knowledge, your own work ethic, and the quality of what you produce. In an unfree society, it will be due to who you know.