Anti-Piketty: It's the Great Subtraction
When you finally get to the end of Thomas Piketty's Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century you get what it's all about: We Need More Money. Of course “we” do. It's Little Shop of Horrors on the Left Bank. “Feed me!”
According to the London Financial Times, Piketty couldn't quite keep his numbers straight. Apparently the rich aren't getting as rich as Piketty's theory wants them to be, and he had to fudge the numbers a bit. But it doesn't alter the message. Tax the rich. Because of inequality.
Let's be clear what he means. The only way to the future, for progressives, is through more subtraction, taking more money out of the economy in taxes. Just like feminists subtracting themselves from the future, what with their abortions and “child-free” lives, and all.
You could call it the Great Subtraction, shrinking life to an equation of rights and liberation. The progressive only thinks of what must be subtracted from other people to liberate them and create rights for their supporters.
There is another way. Call it the Method of Addition. Robert Tracinski shows how it's done by rehearsing, on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty and the Great Society, how to make war on poverty by conservative addition, as opposed to endless progressive subtraction that merely makes “the poor more secure in their poverty.” The Tracinski program starts with the things people can do for themselves.
The first rung of the ladder is Work. Yet a “whole network of government programs is designed to reduce and discourage employment”, starting with the minimum wage and an endless array of programs that discourage people from seeking work. So government subtracts people from the world of work.
Next comes Education, “by far the most effective way to improve your pay and prospects”. But “Education is one of the most spectacular failures of big government, which has squandered enormous, ever-growing sums and only seems to do a worse job.” These days “you can no longer work your way through college.” More money leads to less education.
Next step is Marriage. “If poverty is caused by not working, one of the biggest causes of not working is being a single parent -- which usually means being a single mother.” Marriage means that one parent can earn money and one parent can raise children. Anything less subtracts a good childhood from America's children.
Oh yeah, Children. Tracinski doesn't mention this rung on the ladder, but if you want to add something to this world, children are a good thing to add. Our progressive friends have been scurrying down a century-long rabbit hole, from eugenics to feminism to abortion to population control that adds up to nothing but subtraction.
Then Savings. A lot of the things you need to add to your life start with savings. Yet Thomas Piketty wants to subtract their savings from the rich -- because their wealth might spiral out of control! Then there's Social Security, a program that taxes the savings of middle-class Americans, and reduces the wealth the middle class can pass to its children.
Next Homeownership. It's an important security for the elderly, not having to pay rent. But it's typical of government that it's taken a good thing and made it into a nightmare by subsidizing home-ownership, driving the price of real-estate into the stratosphere, then crashing it, and subtracting from the security of owning your own home.
Finally Entrepreneurship. We often talk about the big stars that go from humble origins to great wealth, but “The more mundane reality is that for many, the road from poverty to the middle class lies in starting and running a business.” In many cases, the poor are already doing this, only their businesses are forced “Off the Books” into the underground economy because they can't afford the subtraction of business taxes and onerous regulations.
Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 tells us the before and after of the 50-year-old War on Poverty. The welfare state has turned out very well for the top 25%, the educated class that runs the welfare state. They get educated, get and stay married, have satisfying careers. Their lives are spent doing just the things that Tracinski recommends. The poor living in places like Philadelphia's Fishtown live on government benefits. The men don't work and the women don't get married. No savings, no homeownership, no entrepreneurship.
At the end of Coming Apart Murray implores the top 25% to “preach what they practice” to middle and low income Americans. But the liberals still bang on about “rights” and “liberation” and the wonderful government safety net.
But liberals are having fewer children than conservatives. At the end of their Great Subtraction waits extinction.