FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Thomas Piketty, Jedediah Purdy And The Leftist Ethic of Resentfulness
Academia’s Newest Champions of Equality At The Zero
We need a foundation of political equality and social guarantees: education, personal security, health care for those who need it, and the expectation of a fair retirement.
Jedediah Purdy, The Daily Beast
The quote above gives you the typical entitled attitude of the Modern Leftist. They need everything. Human life didn’t really exist on Earth before these things were all available. The world is really less than 200 years old and is a cruel and unjust place until these needs are entirely fulfilled. The idea that people who do things better, try harder, and think more deeply should be rewarded with more is flawed and dishonest. Everybody needs whatever they need.
The recently ballyhooed champions of this ethic of resentfulness Thomas Piketty, and Jedediah Purdy, arrive at this more erudite version of the typical 3 Year-Old’s tantrum from different paths. Piketty works as a Professor of Economics at The Paris School of Economics and has written a manual of academic class resentment entitled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” In this masterpiece of Leftist whinging, he laments the fact that incomes are unequal. Predictably, it’s people who earn more who don’t have any right to what they take home. Danial Schuchman describes his point of entry.
…Mr. Piketty believes that only the productivity of low-wage workers can be measured objectively. He posits that when a job is replicable, like an “assembly line worker or fast-food server,” it is relatively easy to measure the value contributed by each worker. These workers are therefore entitled to what they earn. He finds the productivity of high-income earners harder to measure and believes their wages are in the end “largely arbitrary.” They reflect an “ideological construct” more than merit.
So brilliant economic minds like Thomas Piketty are unable to differentiate the value I add by performing a cost estimate that interpolates the simulated results of a Markov Chain versus what I would add if I just assumed it would cost “X” dollars times the rate of inflation next year and thereafter and just drew a straight line across the chart. Therefore, I deserve the salary Thomas Piketty personally believes I deserve to earn regardless of what I do or how I do it. You see, if Thomas Piketty, Dominus et Deus, can’t personally map the value you add to your particular place of employment, you earn an unjustly large salary. And be advised; Piketty says up front that he can’t map the value of anything more abstract than wrapping up crud-burgers in paper at your local Mickey-D’s. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford didn’t deserve their respective fortunes because nobody could have accurately estimated what value the light bulb or the internal combustion engine could add to an enterprise upon their invention. Light bulbs and mass-produced cars were ideological constructs; not brilliant feats of invention and engineering.
Jedediah Purdy is even more pathetically transparent and amusing. He believes there are two waves of meritocracy in America. There was a first wave of “good” meritocracy. Then there was a 2nd wave of “bad” meritocracy. I’ll give you 3 guesses as to which wave Purdy surfed and the first two don’t even count.
First-generation meritocracy pivoted on tests like the SAT. It channeled high scorers into elite schools and positions. It was a product of good impulses: opening up institutions and opportunities that had been mainly closed to people who picked the wrong parents; staffing the laboratories and bureaucracies of the Cold War era with talent. The iconic beneficiary of this meritocracy was the Iowa farm kid or child of segregated Charlotte who was plucked up and admitted to Harvard.
Then we get “bad” meritocracy of the sort that benefitted people not named Jedediah Purdy.
Piketty’s meritocratic extremism has more to do with second-generation meritocracy, which has been accelerating since the 1980s. In this version, multiple-choice tests matter less than market tests. The idea is that money follows quality, so those who attract money must be the best: they must deserve it. Any other test looks spurious: if you’re smart, why aren’t you rich? Second-generation meritocracy appeals to rewarding what’s useful, measured by whether other people will pay for it. It sees test scores as effete and irrelevant, like the older privileges of birth.
Jedediah Purdy is a uniquely detestable, worm-infested pile of dog feces on the lawn of American intellectual culture. He not only resents entrepreneurs, he does so while justifying his own claims to higher status which are, like every rich of privileged Lefty’s, different. The man is truly one of the revolting and hypocritical pigs from Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” He surfed the first wave of meritocracy. He’s more equal than the other ones who grub and work their entire lives to build a business.
In the end, Piketty and Purdy arrive where Marx went before. In the end, everybody who succeeds but who isn’t differently enlightened and socially liberal must be punished because Purdy, Piketty, Marcuse and Karl Marx all four wanted a pony and didn’t get one. Here’s Piketty’s rather pathetically predictable suggestion for state-sponsored brigandage.
Mr. Piketty urges an 80% tax rate on incomes starting at “$500,000 or $1 million.” This is not to raise money for education or to increase unemployment benefits. Quite the contrary, he does not expect such a tax to bring in much revenue, because its purpose is simply “to put an end to such incomes.” It will also be necessary to impose a 50%-60% tax rate on incomes as low as $200,000 to develop “the meager US social state.” There must be an annual wealth tax as high as 10% on the largest fortunes and a one-time assessment as high as 20% on much lower levels of existing wealth. He breezily assures us that none of this would reduce economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship or innovation.
Mr. Piketty’s Dungeons and Dragons fantasy of taxing all the beautiful people who kicked his butt in the middle school locker room would be laughable except that a lot of smart and powerful people are not laughing. His treatise is being lauded as the most important book of the year. We are told we must read and understand it. I lived and worked in Southside Richmond for a couple of years. I understood perfectly why people who wanted more while having to do a lot less pointed guns at the heads of others. Piketty’s taxation regime is exactly analogous. He wants to take what aggressive, smart and hard-working people create and not have to do that work himself. This is precisely what every Liberal suggests when they wake up broke and hungry one morning and need “a foundation of political equality and social guarantees: education, personal security, health care for those who need it, and the expectation of a fair retirement.”