May 1st, 2014

Will Picketty’s book change the world?

The left certainly hopes so.

My new article is up at PJ.

33 Responses to “Will Picketty’s book change the world?”

  1. Mike Says:

    “Whether it would end with mass kulak-murder and the Gulag, or merely a soul-killing torpor induced by the fact that initiative and innovation would no longer be especially rewarded and sloth and covetousness would be encouraged, it sounds like the opposite of Utopia.”

    A refreshing read for this morning :-). Thank you
    I regret that there are not more “Liberals” like you across the aisle. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to dialog with any liberals (including those in my family) as they seem to be content considering dialog to consist of belittling, demeaning and caustic remarks instead of a simple sharing of different points of view.
    Based on their current actions of intolerance with regard to certain private conversations and donations to the ballot initutives, I would say it will be a combination of Gulags for the outspoken ants and a soul-killing torpor for the rest of the worker ants. We have bread and circuses what else do we need? After-all, why pull the wagon when you can simply ride in the wagon and let someone else do the work. Of course the Grasshoppers aka Locusts will always have Wealth for them and theirs because after all Some animals are more equal than others. 🙁

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    Neo believed in individual will and autonomy long before she became politically active and aware.

    However, that’s not the case for what many call liberal Americans or those Americans consider themselves liberal. What are they liberal about, actually? Totalitarian powers, are they liberal on that? Are they liberal on the belief that the police state should monitor and control humans like livestock and euthanize them like PETA does with pets?

    Just what exactly, in their actions not their words, are their “liberal” on?

  3. rickl Says:

    In a post yesterday Ace misspelled his name as Pinketty. I’m sticking with that spelling.

  4. blert Says:

    The skew of the hyper-wealthy is entirely due to Big Government.

    And then there’s the skew caused by extreme concentration of political and social power.

    Pinketty is pitching a black-hole of Big Government — with everything not nailed down being sucked in by the center.

  5. Cornflour Says:

    For those who still have a sense of humor, I’d recommend “The nine stages of the Piketty bubble.”

  6. Artfldgr Says:

    condradictory and ignores the actuality of the current situation in favor of a fantasy of it continuing and so one could make easy assesment of future potentials

    although I can see taxes on the rich being raised somewhat, as they have under Obama, and then millimeter by millimeter inching upwards over time.

    Shows complete ignorance of how or rather the methods of how things actually change from one thing to another…

    Why did it catch on so? Probably because it was an idea whose time had come.

    complete ignorance again…
    your assesments and things ALWAYS without any excveption i can find so far, work from the premise that nothing is in control, nothing has great influence and that everything happens naturally..

    this takes a huge amoujnt of effort to not read the things that would show otherwise… and then ignore things like spies.. then ignore things like billionaires owning newspapers and influencing the articles. the same with TV, and film. and so on!!!!

    marx’s idea was not at all original… so if its time had come, it had to wait from before Plato… no?

    yes… its time had come… which is why the book appeared… no one had to pay to have it printed, then distributed, and so on… right? just appeared an cought the minds?

    sorry… but you ignore that it was paid for by wealthy people who wanted control of the rest of the people… but were torn as to how to get it…

    Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie was the first book, published in his life… marxists consider book three to be the most important…


    the conspiracy of the wealthy promoting it has been known for over 150 years…

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    1971 by Gary Allen with Larry Abraham

    “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” FDR

    Neo, remember where you got your pedigree and thought traning… did you ever break it? or even think it has an effect to skew things?
    [note, the third theory is a mix of the two below]

    Of course, no one in this modern day and age really believes in the conspiracy theory of history — except those who have taken the time to study the subject. When you think about it, there are really only two theories of history.

    Either things happen by accident neither planned nor caused by anybody, or they happen because they are planned and somebody causes them to happen.

    In reality, it is the accidental theory of history preached in the unhallowed Halls of Ivy which should be ridiculed.

    Otherwise, why does every recent administration make the same mistakes as the previous ones? Why do they repeat the errors of the past which produce inflation, depressions and war?

    Why does our State Department “stumble” from one Communist-aiding “blunder” to another?
    [edited for length by n-n]

  8. physics geek Says:

    Will this book change the world? Well, if around 100 million dead last century didn’t change the world enough for putzes like this one, I don’t think that his book will have much effect.

  9. J.J. Says:

    One law of economics: If you want less of something, tax it. Confiscatory taxes on wealth will certainly decrease the size of the economic pie in the U.S. Which starts the downward spiral as in Argentina, as in Venezuela, as in Zimbabwe. We don’t have to look very far to find examples.

    One partial cause of unequal pay is corporate governance. It could be fixed, although it requires more than just writing byzantine regulations. A real fix is just TOO HARD so we’ll find something easy, like the tax code. Yeah, that’ll work. Just like the War on Poverty has worked.

    Artfldgr believes it’s a vast conspiracy. That behind the curtain there are some evil progs pulling the levers, and they have continued to do so for 150 years. All that is happening has been carefully planned by a shadowy group of bankers/commies. The problem with that idea is that communism is a self limiting system. Both Red China and the USSR failed spectacularly. They just don’t last. Venezuela is failing. Cuba and North Korea are basket cases being propped up by others. Venezuela’s failure is going to hit Cuba very hard. Myanmar has quietly failed as a communist state. Under Obama we are following polices that will lead to the same type of failure.

    It’s that the idea of equality of results, which is behind communism, that is attractive to all who are illiterate of economic truths. Which Is probably 70% of the U.S. So, the myth lives on and it appears there is a conspiracy behind it. What’s needed is to run this video – – in every high school and college in the U.S. Then keep running it until every student understands the lesson of the pencil. Economic literacy, not Pinketty’s redistribution of wealth through higher taxes, would go a long way toward better living standards for all.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    Once again you fail to understand what I have written. That has been happening more and more lately.

    “Why did it catch on?” does not mean “why was it published?” or “who was behind it?” or “who paid for it?”. “Why did it catch on?” asks another question, which is why the idea caught on among people over time once the book was published and disseminated, rather than sinking like a stone. The “catching on” was hardly instantaneous, either. When I wrote that its time had come I merely meant that economic and social conditions were ripe for the movement to grow in membership, but not as some sort of spontaneous brushfire of inevitability. Its adherents certainly worked hard to spread the word and get converts to the cause.

    Of course ideas somewhat like Marx’s had been presented before, although not full-fledged Marxism as he presented it, with his interpretation of the trajectory of history. That’s why the question arises as to why it caught on at the point it did (which was in the last decade or two of the 19th century and the first two of the 20th). The article is certainly not meant to offer an in-depth discussion of the answer, either; just why it caught on then rather than earlier.

    On the issue of the history of raising taxes in this country: for state sales taxes, for example, the history is of incremental raises for the most part, building slowly over time. For the income tax, it’s harder to see the true picture because the tax rates are misleading and don’t reflect the true tax burden, since tax shelter and exceptions in times of high marginal tax rates were the rule (so for instance the high tax rates in the 1950s don’t reflect the fact that the actual tax burden was not really higher then than it is today, when tax rates are lower but many shelters and loopholes have been closed). But in the research I’ve done in the past on the topic (for a post I have yet to write), the history of the income tax increases (effective rates, that is) in this country has generally been one of starting with a fairly low rate on the mega-mega-wealthy only, and promises that there won’t be an expansion, and then expanding over time to include more and more of the wealthy at higher and higher effective rates. After quite a few decades of that, tax rates have been more stable in recent decades. There are ups and downs but they are not huge. Historically, in this country, the larger spikes have been in times of war and other very large crises, with lowerings after the crisis has passed.

    There are other patterns possible, of course, and certainly in other countries other patterns may be prominent. But as I said, my opinion is that the way taxes are most likely to go higher in this country would be incrementally.

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    Rockefeller authored his autobiography Memoirs wherein, on page 405, he wrote:

    “For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents … to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.”

    In his 1300-page, 8 pound tome Tragedy and Hope, Dr. Quigley reveals

    “I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960’s, to examine its papers and secret records. I HAVE NO AVERSION TO IT OR TO MOST OF ITS AIMS AND HAVE, FOR MUCH OF MY LIFE, BEEN CLOSE TO IT AND TO MANY OF ITS INSTRUMENTS. I have objected, both in the past and recently, to a few of its policies … but in general my chief difference of opinion is that IT WISHES TO REMAIN UNKNOWN, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.” Quigly

    and you guys think i am long!!!
    1300 pages and 8 pounds…

    the Professor describes as “nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.”

    hey… isnt that what they are doing?

    As Professor Quigley observes: “… his [the individual’s] freedom and choice will be controlled within very narrow alternatives by the fact that he will be numbered from birth and followed, as a number, through his educational training, his required military or other public service, his tax contributions, his health and medical requirements, and his final retirement and death benefits.”

    so Obamacare is just part of the project…
    which is why they had it written already and didnt know what was in it…

    It wants control over all natural resources, business, banking and transportation by controlling the governments of the world. In order to accomplish these aims the conspirators have had no qualms about fomenting wars, depressions and hatred.
    [edited for length by n-n]

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    i give up… too large.

    it must be hard to force yourself to forget some of the most juicy things in history and then ignore that they had any effect on anything, then invent a story as to how it happened randomly and naturally while ignoring those other things.

    its called compartmentalization… the ideas are not one large idea called world… they are separated by a tradition where you dont break down the walls and combine them as the proper way to talk about them is in isolation…

    NEVER put the pieces together
    its explosive.

    abortion and wealth distribution together, like nitric acid and glycerine make for an explosive eugenic combination. which is why you wont talk about them together…

    academic people who have a certain success and have completed it have also learned a certain docility towards how they were told to think…

    of course…
    they are always on a search for understanding
    as such a practice means they are forbidden from the combinations which would allow them to understand!!!!

  13. Ray Says:

    Everyone knows communism would have been a great success if only the right people were in charge. Stalin, Mao, Castro and Pol Pot weren’t real communists. That’s why their governments were such bloody disasters.

  14. Artfldgr Says:

    the League of Just Men
    The League of the Just

    i figured you wont find it…

    The League of the Just was founded by German émigrés in Paris in 1836. This was initially a utopian socialist and Christian communist group devoted to the ideas of Gracchus Babeuf rather than the teachings of Christ. It became an international organization.

    they are the ones who went to Marx and Engels to write Das kapitol…

    also, they are the ones that made the word “League” stand for communism and the organizations of the conspiracy.
    [edited for length by n-n]

  15. neo-neocon Says:


    Again, you misunderstand and misinterpret.

    I certainly am well aware that powerful people like Soros are not working for leftism for idealistic reasons. I certainly am well aware that they believe they will be the ones pulling the strings, and their money will be very well protected.

    Also, I wonder whether you even read my responses. Am I wasting my time addressing you? Because you continue on in the same vein of misunderstanding.

    To reiterate:

    Why did it catch on?” does not mean “why was it published?” or “who was behind it?” or “who paid for it?”. “Why did it catch on?” asks another question, which is why the idea caught on among people over time once the book was published and disseminated, rather than sinking like a stone. The “catching on” was hardly instantaneous, either. When I wrote that its time had come I merely meant that economic and social conditions were ripe for the movement to grow in membership, but not as some sort of spontaneous brushfire of inevitability. Its adherents certainly worked hard to spread the word and get converts to the cause.

  16. neo-neocon Says:


    One more thing—I just noticed this comment of yours as well. Again, you misunderstand me entirely.

    Why would you think I think it’s all some sort of accident? Of course there is a Communist/leftist conspiracy in the sense of many many people working back then, and still working now (in many cases clandestinely) to effect leftist forms of government with themselves in power (accent on the “power”). Why would you think I doubt that, or that any significant number of people here doubt that? Or that I have some sort of theory of history as accidental?

    I have made myself clear in post after post and comment after comment. I have no more time to deal with this in this particular thread. But you are fighting with a straw man.

  17. Artfldgr Says:

    Wilhelm Weitling
    In conformity with the work of the Christian radical Felicité de Lamennais, Weitling urged installing communism by physical force with the help of a 40,000-strong army of ex-convicts. A prelapsarian community of goods, fellowship, and societal harmony would then ensue, directed by Weitling himself. While Marx and Engels struggled with the intricacies of industrial capitalism and modern modes of production, Weitling revived the apocalyptic politics of the sixteenth-century Münster Anabaptists and their gory attempts to usher in the Second Coming. Much to Marx and Engels’s annoyance, Weitling’s giddy blend of evangelism and protocommunism attracted thousands of dedicated disciples across the Continent.

    On The History of the Communist League
    Frederick Engels

    The Communist League (German: Bund der Communisten) was an international political party established in June 1847 in London, England. The organization was formed through the merger of the League of the Just, headed by Karl Schapper and the Communist Correspondence Committee of Brussels, Belgium, in which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the dominant personalities. The Communist League is regarded as the first Marxist political party and it was on behalf of this group that Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto late in 1847. The Communist League was formally disbanded in 1852, following the Cologne Communist Trial.

    these people were very wealthy, connected all over the world, and so on…

    why did you not mention them neo?
    [edited for length]

  18. neo-neocon Says:


    You continue to ignore what I’m writing here.

    But to answer your question: essays for PJ are usually about 1000 words, which is very limited. My essay was almost entirely about Piketty, not about the history of the world of Communist conspiracy. The fact that I did not detail every detail of that world does not mean that I’m generally unaware of it or don’t believe that there has been such a conspiracy, and that it has operated then and now. I have no idea why you would think I think otherwise except that you have some sort of tunnel vision on this topic.

    And of course I don’t know detail after detail of the names of each player and how they interface. Nor do you need to present them here in order to convince some group you imagine is reading here and is reluctant to believe the simple truth, which is that lots of Communists have been working, both openly and clandestinely for this, for well over 100 years.

  19. G Joubert Says:

    The left controls most social institutions. Academia (K through grad school), the MSM, the entertainment industry, labor (public sector in particular), most NGOs, most municipal governments. To name some.

    When JournoList was outed in 2010 it bespoke of much. Can there be any doubt but that there are systematic coordinated efforts going on to direct policy and generally control the narrative about it?

    That’s the Picketty book juice.

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    Why did it catch on?” does not mean “why was it published?” or “who was behind it?” or “who paid for it?”. “Why did it catch on?” asks another question, which is why the idea caught on among people over time once the book was published and disseminated, rather than sinking like a stone.

    cmon neo..
    you lived through PAYOLA

    Payola, in the music industry, is the illegal practice of payment or other inducement by record companies for the broadcast of recordings on music radio in which the song is presented as being part of the normal day’s broadcast. Under U.S. law, 47 U.S.C. § 317, a radio station can play a specific song in exchange for money, but this must be disclosed on the air as being sponsored airtime, and that play of the song should not be counted as a “regular airplay”.

    why make it illegal?

    because the PROCESS is what you use to induce hits

    how did they make everyone, even to today believe the US made AIDS? (then say they did it to kill blacks?)

    Operation INFEKTION was a KGB disinformation campaign to spread information that the United States invented HIV/AIDS

    oh. and how about the protocls of the elders of zion?

    that one has been funded and going on now for almost 200 years…

    it caught on because wealthy people paid for it to be published EVEN IF IT LOST MONEY…

    the more people saw it in print, the more they thouyght otherrthought this way

    your comparmentalizing the things so that you conveniently ignore process your very familiar with!
    [edited for length by n-n]

  21. parker Says:


    Nice, succinct article on Picketty; and your patience in replying to artfldgr’s high horse screeds is something beyond my temperament.

  22. neo-neocon Says:


    I will repeat that you are fighting against what you imagine my position to be rather than what it is. I have already stated quite clearly the fact that I am well aware that Communists have been working for, and funding, the dissemination of Communist ideas and propaganda all over the world. I repeat, however, that some of the reason the ideas managed to catch on was because the world was more receptive to them by the last part of the 19th century and first part of the 20th, due to problems that came with industrialization and other things as well.

    Here is what I actually wrote, by the way, in case anyone didn’t read the original PJ article:

    Karl Marx’s highly influential book — the one that “changed the world” — was titled Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Capital: Critique of Political Economy). Why did it catch on so? Probably because it was an idea whose time had come. Capitalism, and the industrial revolution that really got the capitalism engine going, were still relatively new and unregulated, and socialism/Communism on anything but a micro level had remained relatively untried. Back then it was easier to hope and even to think that it might work as Marx said it would. And it’s important to note that America was always one of the less fertile grounds for Marx’s theories as compared to Europe, in part because Marxism derives a great deal of its appeal from the “class struggle” in societies where the classes are more rigid than they are here.

  23. Ann Says:

    Neo, in line with your “America was always one of the less fertile grounds for Marx’s theories as compared to Europe”, Kyle Smith says this in a good piece on Piketty in the NY Post:

    Americans have an intuitive grasp of how the marketplace works: It’s trickle-down economics, and it’s fine. You’re an electrician or a roofer or a mason, some hedge-fund type buys three properties down the road because he’s going to tear them down and build a mansion in their place, and what do you see? You see dollar signs, not class jealousy. So what if he’s rich? Some of his money winds up in your pocket. He makes the numbers dance on Wall Street but you get richer too, and after you spread the money around the stores in town, your neighbors do too. When the Monopoly Man comes to town, everybody wins, from the monocle maker to the top-hat salesman.

    It’s inconvenient for the Krugtrons [Paul Krugman acolytes] to acknowledge this, but only they see the economy as a story of how you should be resentful of your growing wealth if somebody else’s wealth is growing faster.

    That sounds right to me. Let’s just hope Americans continue to see the world that way.

  24. Eric Says:

    Artfldgr, Neo,

    I haven’t read Neo’s PJM piece yet, but based on the bits referenced here, it strikes me that Artfldgr’s comments work as supplement, though they’re couched as correction.


    The problem isn’t the tangible market, but the intangible one.

  25. neo-neocon Says:


    Yes, I agree that the information could actually be complementary rather than in opposition.

  26. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “communism is a self limiting system. Both Red China and the USSR failed spectacularly. They just don’t last.”

    We agree on much JJ but here we part company. Communism is a totalitarian system. Exactly how is a totalitarian system ‘self-limiting’?

    Red China has failed spectacularly? By what measure? Economically, politically, ideologically?

    I suspect that perhaps you posit that China is no longer Red China. One party government with no individual or minority rights would appear to qualify as politically communistic. Economically, does anyone imagine that the bulk of China’s ‘private’ profits do not end up in the hands of the political elite and their cronies?

    The underlying memes, assumptions and premises that support communism are alive and well in the world, as the support for Piketty’s book demonstrates. And as long as communism’s premises are popular, communism’s demise is greatly exaggerated.

  27. rickl Says:

    Here is my favorite comment at the PJM article, by “tdiinva”. I voted to “like” it, but it’s not yet among the top-rated comments. It bears repeating:

    The new Democratic Party socialist elite want something more than their immediate predecessors. They values power over lives of people more than material gain. This elite is intent on making over American society in the image a Peoples Republic where the vanguard elite has absolute power. Their entire program is based on three elements, impoverish, immobilize and disarm the people. Like the Soviets there will only be two types of people: the rulers who will have everything and the ruled who will have nothing. The socialist order will be enforced as it always has – at the point of a gun. Just remember one thing, a socialist is unfulfilled unless he can commit mass murder. Killing the unborn, the unfit and the elderly can’t satisfy him forever.

  28. J.J. Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: “We agree on much JJ but here we part company. Communism is a totalitarian system. Exactly how is a totalitarian system ‘self-limiting’?

    Red China has failed spectacularly? By what measure? Economically, politically, ideologically?”

    Red China went bust. They had starved so many people and had such low capabilities of even feeding themselves, that they had to change. The same thing happened with the USSR.

    The totalitarian features go on, just in a different form that allows more freedom to the population. The communist economics ends and the pressure on the “comrades” to conform to state policy is eased. Both China and Russia have resources and people who know how to utilize them. They have shifted from a system where the people pretend to work, while the government pretends to pay them to a system where the oligarchs pay the people and the government no longer tries to control their thoughts and movements.

    I’ve been to both Russia and China. The people there are enjoying more freedom than under the old regimes. One Russian told me that in the old days a Russian citizen could have been shot for photographing the KGB building or even sitting and staring at it. (Both things which I did in St. Petersberg.) They’re certainly better fed, especially in China. Some in China and Russia have an opportunity to move up economically, but the number is limited. Many have some hope of improving their lives and some living standards are improving. But it isn’t communist economics and equality of outcome anymore. Russia is an oligarchy. China is a combination of oligarchy and fascism. They still call themselves communist, but they’re not.

    Fascism is still government oriented, but when you start from a low level and don’t have much environmental regulation holding you back, you can create growth. Russia has not been as clever as the Chinese in manipulating their trade and currency, and the oligarchs have been too greedy. As a result, they lag the Chinese in economic growth. If the Chinese were brought up short by the U.S. and made to trade on an equal basis (no tariffs on our products) with their currency floating like most currencies do, their growth would not be nearly so robust.

    Zimbabwe is a better example. Mugabe has refused to change. When he took over, Zimbabwe was one of the richer countries in Africa. They exported food. Today, they can’t feed themselves. The country is in a shambles. When Mugabe dies, it’s almost certain they will turn to a fascist system, but they have driven out all the people with know how. They cannot do what Russia and China have done.

    That’s my take on it.

  29. Ymarsakar Says:

    The problem with Art’s belief that he can read the Art of War and other war manuals, and then be able to copy 100% of the wisdom and knowledge of the author in a single go, is that it leads to perfection tunnel vision. They get the idea that they can read things, like this blog, and understand everything in it and everyone in it, because reading is a 100% transfer to them.

    The Left has a similar problem with their divine gods and their dogma. They think it is perfect, so can never admit the mistakes.

  30. waitforit Says:

    Plague does things. But we learned how to stop plague through sanitation. Sanitize. That’s the answer. Works to stop our solutions. Works to stop their. Sanitize.

  31. OlderandWheezier Says:

    Picketty, Picketty. my French hen,
    He longs to rob wealthy men….

  32. T Says:

    And yet the fundamentally false premise remains unspoken, even here. Ann above (@4:37) comes closest, but the fundamentally error ridden premise that income inequality is wrong and immoral. It is not.

    The ability to acquire wealth is a skill like any other. Some people have it and some people don’t. The left relies on envy and projects greed onto the successful as if (and as noted by Thomas Sowell) greed alone will simply make someone want to give the greedy their money.

    When a leftist incorrectly notes that income inequality is greater than it ever has been. The response should be “so what?” Piketty is addressing a solution to an imaginary problem of the left’s own making.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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