The Ghost of Marley
This seems as good a way to get back on line as any. Type this link into your browser www.growth.not forced equality.com and you will come up with a 1200 word article from today’s (Christmas Day) New York Times. We have been out of the country for the past month and this is our first posting since returning.
The article seems to us so wrong-headed that we need to comment on it. Firstly, it is not clear what windmill the author is tilting at. To attack inequality as we do does not mean we espouse total equality. This is naif. (And what is this about Rolexes, anyway?) It is the degree of inequality that we are concerned with—the difference between the tolerable inequality of the immediate post-World War II years up to 1970 (“Les Trentes Glorieuses,” as the French call them) and the giddying and steadily increasing inequality of today, which can only lead ultimately to bloody revolution or ruthless state oppression (and here I quote Thomas Piketty, whose ultimate solution is a global progressive tax on capital, which he admits will be difficult to achieve but must be reached to avoid Prof. McCloskey’s offshoring to Dublin or the Cayman Islands).
All of Piketty’s proposal falls within the capitalist system. There is no suggestion of going outside it, simply retuning it to make it work better. Suggestions of the negative income tax and the universal basic income have both been made by economists completely within the capitalist camp. And her notion of Mao’s and Stalin’s totalitarian systems as having been experiments in equality is a joke.
Finally, Prof. McCloskey’s insistence on our lifting up “those below him” smacks of an intolerably patronizing attitude. We are all in this together. The wealth this earth provides needs to be equitably shared, not hoarded by the most rapacious among us. The capitalist system, if properly instituted, provides us with the means to do this. Let’s put it to use.