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.