Why Economist Thomas Piketty Has Scared the Pants Off the American Right

Posted: April 22, 2014 in Economy

If you call rigorous economic research on inequality a Communist plot, will it go away?

 

April 21, 2014 |

Thomas Piketty is no radical. His 700-page book Capital in the 21st Century is certainly not some kind of screed filled with calls for class warfare. In fact, the wonky and mild-mannered French economist opens his tome with a description of his typical Gen X abhorrence of what he calls the “lazy rhetoric of anticapitalism.” He is in no way, shape, or form a Marxist. As fellow-economist James K. Galbraith has underscored in his review of the book, Piketty “explicitly (and rather caustically) rejects the Marxist view” of economics.

But he does do something that gives right-wingers in America the willies. He writes calmly and reasonably about economic inequality, and concludes, to the alarm of conservatives, that there is no magical force that drives capitalist societies toward shared prosperity. Quite the opposite. He warns that if we don’t do something about it, we may end up with a society that is more top-heavy than anything that has come before — something even worse than the Gilded Age.

For this, in America, you get branded a crazed Communist by the right. In this past weekend’s New York Times, Ross Douthat sounds the alarm in an op-ed ominously tited ” Marx Rises Again.” The columnist hints that he and his fellow pundits have only pretended to read the book but nevertheless feel comfortable making statements like “Yes, that’s right: Karl Marx is back from the dead” about Piketty. The National Review’s James Pethokoukis joins in the games with a silly article called ” The New Marxism” in which he repeats the nonsense that Piketty is some sort of Marxist apologist.

For Douthat and his tribe, the proposition that unfettered capitalism marches toward gross inequality is not a conclusion based on carefully collected data, strenuous research and a sweeping view of history. It has to be a Communist plot.

The very heft of Piketty’s book is terrifying to the Douthats, and no wonder they don’t dare to read it, because if they did, they would find chart after chart, data set after data set, and hundreds of years worth of economic history scrutinized…

[Continue to complete article: Why Economist Thomas Piketty Has Scared the Pants Off the American Right | Alternet.]

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