The Economist wants to know why Thomas Piketty, the best-selling French author whose critique of capitalism has become all the rage among the American intelligentsia did not elicit a similar adultation when his book was first published in France last year.
Happily enough, I have already addressed the issue. Piketty’s policy proposals echo those of the French Socialist Party. Everyone but American intellectuals knows that policies based on those proposals produced an economic and, more recently, a political calamity.
The Economist echoes my point:
A more serious explanation could be that Mr Piketty was too closely linked to a proposal by François Hollande, France’s Socialist president, during his 2012 election campaign to introduce a now-discredited 75% top income-tax rate. The 75% tax rate sent an important message, Mr Piketty said approvingly at the time, and “lots of other countries will inevitably follow this route”. In fact, the millionaire tax was denounced by one of Mr Hollande’s own advisers as “Cuba without the sun”, ruled unconstitutional by the French constitutional court, and was hastily watered down.
From which we must conclude that the French public is a step ahead of elite American intellectuals. This tells us that American intellectuals do not really care whether the policies that derive from Piketty’s analysis work.
More importantly, American leftists are ginning up their media machine for the upcoming elections. They know that they must change the conversation. If the nation is talking about the calamity of Obamacare and the pathetically weak economic recovery the Democrats will lose.
In order to motivate their base Democrats are generating a conversation about inequality. And, of course, racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and so on.
How better to motivate Democratic Party voters than to tell them that the fault for their chronic joblessness lies with predatory capitalists. It’s called shifting the blame.
Besides, when the national debt is approaching $18 trillion, the last thing you want to talk about is how you are going to pay for it. If you did, you would have to explain why, at a time when your policies should be geared to producing new wealth, you are obsessing about how to redistribute old wealth, bloating the public sector at the expense of the private sector, thereby diminishing wealth.
American intellectuals want the nation to become more like France. French citizens know better. They know that Pikettynomics does not work.