2014: The year it sucked to be a right-wing economist

Still think inequality is a good thing in the post-Piketty world?
Comment ça se dit, "slap in the face"?

Comment ça se dit, “slap in the face”?

Are you believer in the free market fundamentalist school of economic theory? If you are, then 2014 must have been a crap year. The main reason was the publication in English on what has now turned to be one of the seminal works of economics of our generation: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Let’s understand the magnitude of this. A French economist, yes French, wrote a 700-page monolith of a tome in one of the most mind-numbingly boring subjects known to humankind and turned it into a New York Times bestseller. Presumably many of the thousands of people who bought Piketty’s book probably have never bought, much less read, an economics book in their lifetime. Maybe they didn’t even read it from start to finish (this blogger must confess, he has neither bought it nor read it) but, hey, it’s the thought that counts.

L’enfant terrible of economics

I cannot emphasize enough the he’s French bit. If there’s any country whose economic intelligentsia has been vilified by the Ivy League-bred doges of the economics profession, it is France. Yes, there’s a handful of world-renowned French economists like former IMF chief economist Oliver Blanchard and this year’s Nobel Laureate Jean Tirole, but for the most part these have comfortably fit into the “system”, and only challenged it at the margins, if at all. Certainty none of them has launched the kind of broadside that Piketty did in Capital, a book which uncovers free market capitalism’s ugly face: that of a system which naturally gravitates towards the accumulation of wealth by the owners of capital. Rather than see the two most recent periods of massive rises in global inequality (the so-called “guilded ages” before the 1929 and 2008 crashes) as oddities, Piketty has painted them as the baseline: the social-democratic golden age in the post-WW2 decades is in fact, a one-off, in which the trauma of war forced Western governments to redistribute wealth to a degree that had never been done before or since. Continue reading

The madness of Black Friday

It’s not an Americanism. It’s the inequality, stupid
UK or US? Can't tell the difference

Could be either side of the Atlantic

There are few things as ‘Merican than apple pie… and the mayhem known as Black Friday. On this day, which just happens to be the day after families are reunited for a homely turkey dinner during the celebration known as Thanksgiving, we see the spirit of kindness and sharing break down into an orgiastic shopping fury for the bargain of the year. Time after time we see the videos showing a complete breakdown of society as soon as the doors to Walmart and Best Buy open at the stroke of midnight, in what could easily be filmed as a sequence for The Walking Dead or some other zombie apocalypse movie. Decent Americans hang their head in shame at the sight of this insanity being showcased to the rest of the world, while foreigners look with a sense of smug relief: hey, we may not be a global superpower, but at least we’re not that pathetic!

Well, except Britain.

Replace Walmart with Tesco or ASDA, replace the name of any mid-western hick town for any chavy London suburb and you pretty much have an exact replica of the US’s singularly most awful cultural peculiarity. Don’t believe me? Just watch this. There were screams. There was tussling. There were fistfights. There were arrests. If there was a final exam for aspiring to US statehood, Britain passed it last week with flying colors (err, colours). Continue reading