Picking on Piketty, Part 5

We’ve noted the weaknesses of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century before (here, here, here, and here), but what the heck, with France ruining Piketty’s and Krugman’s Monday by cutting its high income surtax, we might as well note the latest torpedo aimed at Piketty. It comes from the website Capx (“for popular capitalism”), in a post entitled “Ten Truths About Income Inequality.”

All ten are worth taking in, but here are my favorite two:

3. Voters are more interested in tackling poverty than inequality.

If the anti-capitalist Left is obsessed by inequality the public isn’t. 57% of Britons told YouGov that they’d accept more inequality if the poor had more money. Only 16% wanted inequality to be reduced as an end in itself – assuming that the income of the poor was unchanged after the rich had been levelled down. Other polling in America – using a slightly different question – points in the same direction. By 59% to 37% Americans prefer a political candidate who focuses on economic growth to one who focuses on fairness.

 

5. We must recognise the non-economic components of inequality.

In nearly all discussion of inequality there is very little mention of one vital factor: the family. Robert Rector of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation has referred to the emergence of a caste based system in western societies. In one caste already rich children are raised by married parents with a university education. In a second caste many poor children are raised by lone parents with only a handful of basic qualifications. As night follows day inequity in social capital leads to great inequities in economic capital. This isn’t just a common sensical observation, it has also been investigated and established by America’s Federal Reserve Bank. Fed economists estimate that about half of all growth in inequality may be a function of changing family structure. The collapse of the family is particularly acute in working class families. The Left’s own indifference to traditional moral norms is therefore a key part of the explanation for the inequality they detest.

But talking about “family breakdown” is taboo for liberals, because it runs against the willful liberationist agenda and especially feminist hatred of happiness that is a core driver of liberal rage today.

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