Piketty’s Point

Thomas Piketty has a detailed response to the “number-cooking” criticisms leveled at his book by the Financial Times, which you can read here.

Now my point is not to run get my hip-waders on in order to get into the stats and numbers. I am afraid I would catch very few mountain trout that way, and thus would not be in a position to say if there were any of them in there.

So if I am not a numbers wonk, what defensible basis might I have for being so hostile to Piketty’s message? For he does have one — here is what he says what it is:

“The main message coming from my book is . . . that we need more democratic transparency about wealth dynamics, so that we are able to adjust our institutions and policies to whatever we observe.”

Let me reduce this to its essentials: “We want to be able to see what everyone has, so that we can take it if we want.”

This kind of policy proposal is a great example of the soft despotism that de Tocqueville warned against. I just hate this kind of stuff, and I hate it with a perfect hatred. Hard despotism is when nobody misunderstands the point — the drug is fear. With soft despotism the drug is some kind of soma. But in either case, whether terrified or bribed, the people have no idea what liberty is supposed to mean.

They don’t know that the Spirit of God is the author of it, they don’t know what it is, they don’t know the foundation for it, they don’t know how to get it, they don’t know how to keep it, and if any glimmer of it starts to appear, they pull away like they saw a rattling snake. And maybe they did, on the pick-up just ahead.

There is no way to have “democratic transparency” without the abolition of privacy, which has enough challenges already. There is no way to have adequate information about all those “wealth dynamics” without knowing how much money everyone has. The “institutions and policies” they so much want to “adjust” include those people with block letters on their jackets who would raid selected houses to bring the residents of it into greater conformity to what the ruling elites have decided they want to “observe.” These people are like crack addicts, and their white powder is coercion. They just love that stuff, and they love it right up their nose.

We live in a time when the EPA wants jurisdiction over mud puddles that may form on my property, the NSA wants the right to inhabit the phone in my pocket, the International Norming Team Encountering Racism Deficient In Current Thought (INTERDICT) wants to regulate what I can put on this blog, the IRS wants to withhold tax exempt status from people who disagree with them, and all this is happening despite the fact that I have repeatedly cancelled my subscription to The Clown Car Review. It just keeps coming.

A global tax? Are you joking me? While current cross-border government entities (like the UN and EU) have certainly demonstrated a certain measure of financial probity up to this point — about the same measure as a tribe of thirsty chimps turned loose in a Johnnie Walker warehouse — I still think we ought not to risk it.

Thomas Piketty has a wrong view of man, a false view of property, a false view of the state, and has confounded the essential distinction between meum and tuum. Other than that, I suppose, everything’s okay.

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Alex
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Alex

Pastor Wilson, have you read his book?

timothy
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timothy

Agreed Pastor. First things. But, they don’t care.

There is a lot of new chatter going on.

1. Picketty and Obama’s inequality talking points.

2. Push for cashless society in Israel:
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-27/government-plan-would-transform-israel-world’s-first-cashless-society

And a little bit of Harvard push along the same lines:
http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=229049

3. And wearable tattoos for authentication from Google. http://youtu.be/fzB1EcocAF8?t=5m26s (fun starts at ~5 mins in.

Throw in a monetary crisis and some Chicago thugs and voila!

Bill Hickman
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Bill Hickman

“These people are like crack addicts, and their white powder is coercion.”

State coercion is the only way we actually know what’s “meum” and “tuum.” You and I would have no wealth if not for property law – a massive project of government coercion. Piketty is simply suggesting that we deploy our coercive resources in a more egalitarian fashion.

RFB
Guest
RFB

And what is worse is that someone FROM OUR CAMP will read “We want to be able to see what everyone has, so that we can take it if we want.” and then 1. find nothing wrong with it, 2. defend it, and 3. label said description as hateful, greedy and unloving.

Jon Swerens
Member

Bill Hickman said: “You and I would have no wealth if not for property law.”

Incorrect. Property law doesn’t define property as much as it defines theft. If no one stole, there would be no need for the law.

Bill Hickman
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Bill Hickman

“Property law doesn’t define property as much as it defines theft.”

What is “property” other than the ability to have the state kick people off my land or out of my bank account? We don’t “own” things in any meaningful sense unless the law says so.

Bert Perry
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It strikes me that the rise and fall in the proportion of wealth held by the top 10% really corresponds better to government subsidies than it does to income confiscation via the income and estate taxes, and that the postwar rise in wealth held by the top 10% really corresponds very well to the growth of the state, but poorly if at all with income and estate tax rates. It is as if the top 10% know how to game the system through campaign finance donations. OK, sounds like I’ll take Piketty at his word. Get government out of non-public… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

@Bert.

Excellent points.

RFB
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RFB

Mr. Hickman,

I would recommend Rex Lex by Samuel Rutherford for your reading pleasure.

Matt
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Matt

Bill Hickman says we don’t own things in any meaningful sense unless the law says so. Does “Life” fall into the category of “things”? Or “Speech” or “Assembly”? Granted, the context of this discussion is wealth. However, when has the coercive state ever relinquished the power to control anything? In other words, state involvement is steadily growing; it’s never consistently shrinking. If the civil law changes and wealth is no longer private, do you really think the state will stop at that? The trend is clear: the state will eventually decide that LIVES belong to them. You don’t believe me.… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

Matt,

“…do you really think the state will stop at that?” Excellent point, sir!

We are to give unto God and Caesar as appropriate.

The important and fundamental qualification to this is that Caesar absolutely does not have the authority to define those parameters. He does not get to decide where those lines are drawn.

Benjamin
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Benjamin

bill Hickman: I would completely agree with you, if property were something merely defined by the ‘state’ (or any other body that rules over me). In that side of the pool, you’re right… you only own what the state can coerce to keep yours… however, there is another point to consider: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. By definition, property is not something any creature can claim, except that it has been given to us by its owner. The owner Himself has much to say on individual and family property ownership, granting to us the… Read more »

Nate
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Nate

Seems to me there’s a very clear parallel to King David’s error in ordering a census in 1 Chron 21 and increasing our Gov’s information gathering capabilities. Just seems to me our leaders are stirring up a lot of bad mojo.

Bill Hickman
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Bill Hickman

benjamin: Yes, the Scriptures prohibit theft. I am not allowed to take a piece of property if, in doing so, I violate your underlying right to the property. But where do the Scriptures tell us what the precise arrangement of those underlying rights should be? They don’t. The regime of laws and rules that determines who has what wealth- e.g., how long my copyright lasts on my book, or how much tax I pay on capital gains – is fully man-made. If if’s okay for the state to grant property rights by creating property law in the first place, then… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

Mr. Hickman, I do not see in scripture a principle that says that it is “okay for the state to grant property rights…”. I see in scripture a system of equity to protect that which man has been granted by God. I think that it is important to understand the word “rights”. In my understanding, government does not create or grant rights; these are God-given. The state exists to protect (secure) said rights. Some notorious men also shared this sympathy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

And so: “And… that’s the problem with socialism. The absence of a bottom line doesn’t reduce greed and self-dealing — it removes a constraint on greed and self-dealing. And when that happens, ordinary people pay the price. Keep that in mind, when people suggest that free-market systems are somehow morally inferior to socialism.”

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/06/02/shinseki-retire-va-scandal-veterans-health-care-obama-column/9838541/

Bill Hickman
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Bill Hickman

@RFB: “In my understanding, government does not create or grant rights; these are God-given. The state exists to protect (secure) said rights.” I don’t think it makes sense to talk about wealth as a “God-given” right. The amount of money in my bank account is determined in large part by a variety of state-created laws – tax laws, employment laws, health care laws, contract laws, etc. Change any of these laws and my bank account would probably grow or shrink accordingly. So to say that my rights to my own wealth are “God-given” would be to argue that it would… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Bill Hickman wrote: “If it’s okay for the state to grant property rights by creating property law in the first place, then how can it be theft for the state to adjust those property laws slightly to achieve a different distribution?” RFB is correct that our founding civil contract recognizes certain inalienable rights. So our government doesn’t grant these rights, it protects them. However, Hickman suggests that there is a “cocktail” of property laws (tax laws, health care laws, traffic laws, etc) that don’t conflict with these inalienable rights, and therefore should be subject to adjustment and redistribution. This is… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

An understanding of the fundamental distinction between meum and tuum sounds to me like something to bring up in the Confessional.

I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins. In particular I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my neighbor, but have understood a fundamental distinction between meum and tuum. For all this I am sorry, and pray for grace; I want to do better.