The Guardian: Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty review – if inequality is illegitimate, why not reduce it?

The Guardian, February 19, 2020: Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty review – if inequality is illegitimate, why not reduce it?

It is a journalistic convention that any author who writes a doorstopper of a book with the word “capital” in the title must be the heir to Karl Marx, while any economist whose books sell in the hundreds of thousands is a “rock star.” Thomas Piketty’s 600-page, multi-million selling Capital in the Twenty-First Century won him both accolades, but both were wide of the mark. There is nothing Marxist about Piketty’s politics, which are those of a liberal reformer, while his concept of capital is closer to an accounting category (a proxy for “wealth”) than the exploitative force that Marx saw it as.

His premise in Capital and Ideology is a moral one: inequality is illegitimate, and therefore requires ideologies in order to be justified and moderated. “All history shows that the search for a distribution of wealth acceptable to the majority of people is a recurrent theme in all periods and all cultures,” he reports boldly. As societies distribute income, wealth and education more widely, so they become more prosperous. The overturning of regressive ideologies is therefore the main condition of economic progress.

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