David Hines
The bleat goes on
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By David Hines
July 22, 2014

Many people choose their economics like they choose their favorite bands. They enjoy the beat. No analysis required. "I can dance to it" is sufficient.

Thomas Piketty has a lot of people dancing. The French economist has played the familiar beat of "soak the rich."

Piketty's book Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century emphasizes consumption, paying little heed to production. The likely outcome of such a plan ought to be apparent: less will be produced to consume. While we consume what's left we can cast aspersions at more hedonistic and materialistic economists, right? If we ignore the math errors noted by other economists, it sounds as good as ever – wealth with minimal effort, the desire of nearly every person alive.

If a physicist describes what happens as a result of the law of gravity, nobody says, "You hate the wingless!" Or, "You're a shill for the rocket manufacturers!" But if an economist tells what happens as a result of economic law, similar accusations are made. He's an unrepentant hedonist and materialist who considers profit to be the ultimate good.

The economist qua economist does not propound a particular agenda. He describes what would be the effect of an action. As a person, he might well have a preference for a particular outcome. And they do. Like all of us, they'd rather see prosperity than depression. How to get there is a matter for much debate. Piketty considers the highest good to be equalization of outcome regardless of output. He's been applauded by politicians and their media cheerleaders. They assume that they will be in charge of the administration and distribution of Piketty's proposed worldwide tax.

The rest of us ought to reconsider. Equal outcome quite often is equal misery rather than equal prosperity. Moreover, the managers of the global government required to collect a worldwide tax are sure to be even more privileged and elitist than are current politicians.

Is Piketty a hedonist and a materialist? Sure, according to the aspersions cast against economists less beloved by socialists. He's advocating a material solution to happiness; he places enjoyment of wealth above production of wealth. As an economist, he describes what he thinks is the outcome of actions; as a person he recommends a material and hedonistic resolution to wealth disparity – "Enjoy other people's money."

Economics is the study of production and distribution of goods. Those who expect it to be a genie granting wishes, a tool of religion, a path to political power, or justification for taking somebody else's stuff at gunpoint inappropriately conflate too many things.

But drumbeats are not cerebral; they are visceral. People will dance to the beat they like. Sheep like the beat of making goats of the rich. That could leave a lot of us ultimately beaten up.

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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