I love fireworks on the 4th of July. It’s of course symbolic of our Nation’s violent founding in the Revolutionary War. We celebrate Independence Day and understand that violence was necessary to secure our rights to life, liberty and property. But some writers think violence is still necessary (violence against property owners) because of existing oppressive power structures and wealth inequality.
The marketplace of ideas is a battlefield. French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century (2013) was hailed as a hugely significant work by wealth redistributionists. The title is a wink to Karl Marx’s book Das Kapital (1867) advocating communism. Piketty proposes global “confiscatory tax rates” (his words) in his attempt to legitimize violence against the wealthy. The book received accolades from the Left because they have been so desperate for new material since the ideas of Karl Marx were blown to bits.
Piketty’s ideas were subject to vehement criticism some of which are summarized in the book Anti-Piketty (2017). It’s a collection of 24 ballistic missile essays from various authors launched into Piketty’s supposed economics book (it’s clearly political – a treatise on morality or normative economics – ‘I thus declare that this is how things should be!’). The Anti-Piketty essays are so piercing that they’re humorous with titles like “Piketty Gets It Wrong”, “Piketty’s Numbers Don’t Add Up” – so much to criticize because of the gigantic leaps of logic and gaps in data according to the critics.
Collectivist ideas have long been debunked and are now being dressed up in disguise. Even Karl Marx remarked that “history always repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” We strolled through the completely devastated intellectual and moral landscape of Collectivism here starting on 11/30/16 as we examined the chapters of F. A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (1944). Piketty’s work is subject to the exact same criticism (beware the social engineer from my 12/20/16 post). Loosely quoting from Chapter 5 “The Sociology of Piketty’s Anti-Rich Stance” in the book Anti-Piketty (pg. 46):
Intellectuals who are affluent but not super rich are eager to set the threshold for confiscatory tax rates just beyond their own income levels. But this sort of class war is only part of the equation…. it’s more about power. A full endorsement of classic leftist radicalism would set a torch to Piketty’s own tower of privilege. The State, guided by experts, informed by data, must be empowered to decide how the Rawlsian difference principle is applied to society. Piketty’s assurance that inequality “inevitably” leads to violence amounts to an implied threat: “Let us distribute resources as we think best, or the masses will bring fire”.
It’s the same tired old ethics of envy and resentment towards the wealthy. Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) wrote that intellectuals “loathe capitalism because it has assigned to this other man the position that they themselves would like to have”. Hayek believed social engineers are “second-hand dealers in ideas”. No need to worry about political attacks on wealth, there are plenty of intellectual warriors battling to protect our interests in the war of ideas. Enjoy the fireworks and the economic rocket’s red glare. Your life, liberty and property are safe. Happy 4th of July from the War Chest!