It couldn’t have been a better week to be talking about inequality as Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital and Ideology” is published in French (the English version isn’t due until next year). As the man who brought the inequality debate to the front and centre of all political and economic discourse with his award winning book – “Capital in the 21st century”, his self-proclaimed new and improved book could have significant ramifications for policy making especially in the rich world – higher income and wealth taxes for the super-rich.
“And he says his new book addresses two shortcomings of the last one, which was too focused on Western economies, and didn’t give enough space to the political ideologies that lie behind inequality.
“Capital and Ideology’’ ranges across time and geography, with analysis of colonial, slave-owning and communist economies, and references to India, China and Brazil.
“In this book I will try to convince the reader that the lessons of history can be leaned upon to define a more demanding norm of justice and equality,” he writes, in an extract from the new book published by Le Monde newspaper.
Piketty says his conclusion is that it’s a mistake to see inequality as rooted in nature, or driven by changes in technology. Its real causes are to be found in politics and ideology — and that makes it easier to challenge.
In the new book, according to L’Obs, Piketty argues that no shareholder should control more than 10 per cent of voting rights at a company –- even if they hold a much bigger stake.
He backs a kind of capital handout for the public –- a variant of helicopter money. Piketty’s “inheritance for all’’ would grant all French citizens a lump sum of 120,000 euros ($132,000) when they reach the age of 25.
And he advocates a wealth tax to enshrine the idea that ownership of property above a certain value can only be “temporary’’.
In France, for example, the scale would range from a 0.1 per cent charge on wealth below the national average of 200,000 euros, to as much as 90 per cent.
“The system I propose makes it possible to own several million euros, or even tens of millions, at least for a while,’’ Piketty told L’Obs. “But those with several hundred million euros, or several billion, will have to share power.’’
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