Wednesday, June 4, 2014


There’s a lot of hoopla now about the book Capital in the 21st Century, by Thomas Piketty. Basically, Piketty claims that wealth inequality is about as bad as it’s been since the time of Solon, and that we’d better fix it or there’ll be hell to pay. (Or something like that. The back cover was kind of short on specifics.)

Naturally, there’s political uproar over these claims. The Financial Times excoriated Piketty, saying his methods were wrong, while Piketty rebutted the charge with “Nuh-uh. You are!”

Obviously, Piketty’s a smart guy. He’s an economist, which means he was able to stay awake in economics class, which is more than I could do and I think I’m pretty smart. But he misses one major point.

We LOVE inequality.

Seriously, it’s all we dream about. Look at popular entertainment. Harry Potter was a trust fund baby. The so-called reality shows are all about people willing to utterly humiliate themselves for a shot at wealth and fame … and we watch them! (Well, somebody does.) We don’t even have to mention professional sports. All the Disney movies and merchandise are about princes and princesses. And who would tune in to HBO for Game of Desk Chairs?

We make folk heroes out of jackasses like Cliven Bundy, and spend countless hours following the exploits of the Kardashians. The media hound the British royal family as if … well, as if they actually mattered anymore.

So the next time you hear someone complaining about wealth distribution, you can snap back with “Hey, if it weren’t for inequality, we’d all be stuck watching C-SPAN!”


Bill Costa said...

If all the economists were laid end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Unknown said...

If all the economists were laid end to end, ... nah, that would never happen.