The copy of ‘Anti-Piketty’ arrived in the post of yesterday. I had ordered both ‘After Piketty’
in order to read both books in tandem, or essay by essay, that shared the same themes, concerns, criticisms/praise.
Just paging through ‘Anti-Piketty’ offered some insights offered by the editors
Part 1. An Apocalyptic Vision
The empirical and theoretical work of an author is inevitably marked with a vision. It is important to discuss that vision to form a complete critique of the author’s work and thereafter to better understand those empirical and theoretical choices.
As with Karl Marx, the vision that permeates the work of Thomas Piketty is decidedly pessimistic about capitalism. Class struggle is always in the background: society is in conflict, and what A gains is lost by B. In such a society, the rich are “the
wicked” side of the story. The idea that the poor can enrich themselves through capital accumulation—the tool of domination of the rich—is nearly taboo in Piketty’s world. The fact that the poor are already enriched by the market economy obviously doesn’t fit in with the rest of the vision.
Part 1 of this volume therefore offers a critique of Thomas Piketty’s vision—a vision in which reductions in various inequalities are hidden, a vision which is tainted by an anti-rich bias, a
vision which does not serve the poor.
Section 1. No Declining Inequality?
Thomas Piketty pictures a world caught in an unstoppable
spiral of enrichment of a minority, at immense cost to the majority. While the 1 percent of rentiers accumulates fortune in a snowball effect, what becomes of the 99 percent? In reality, are the
99 percent becoming poorer? Are they so badly off? This section looks at the phenomenon—unprecedented in history—of the enrichment of the masses, notably in the form of extended life expectancy and access to consumption and education.It attempts to offer a realistic vision about the evolution of types
of inequality, which is a lot less pessimistic than Piketty’s
The near hysterical defensiveness of the editors is palpable in the first two sections quoted. The text in the two quoted paragraphs, that I have put in the bold font, offers the notion of the enrichment of the masses by way of ‘The fact that the poor are already enriched by the market economy obviously doesn’t fit in with the rest of the vision.’ , ‘extended life expectancy‘, and ‘access to consumption and education’ : the last is a function of the Market Economy, yet ‘access’ is wholly dependent on the purchasing power of the ‘consumer’, reducing the person to the status of a function within that Market. As one considers the issues, ‘extended life expectancy’ is dependent on the ability of the ‘consumer’ to purchase medical and dental insurance and the ability to pay for life saving drugs like Insulin.
A recent Martin Wolf review of The Great Reversal by Thomas Philippon offers an opportunity to read a Capitalist Apologist, reviewing another member of that Club, on the failure of Capitalism to live up to the singular ideal of ‘Competition‘.
Headline:Why the US economy isn’t as competitive or free as you think
Sub-headline: Martin Wolf reviews ‘The Great Reversal’ by Thomas Philippon
Over the past two decades, competition and competition policy have atrophied, with dire consequences, Philippon writes in this superbly argued and important book. America is no longer the home of the free-market economy, competition is not more fierce there than in Europe, its regulators are not more proactive and its new crop of superstar companies not radically different from their predecessors.