Thomas Piketty: "... wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages. This inequality expresses a fundamental logical contradiction. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labour. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future. The consequences for the long-term dynamics of wealth distribution are potentially terrifying, especially when one adds that the size of the initial stake and that the divergence in the wealth distribution is occurring on a global scale."
While virtually all advocacy, transparency and tax avoidance entities focus on offshore financial centres, money laundering and current abuses of the template of capital, the real wealth inequalities exist on the basis of old money and all those forgotten crimes.
For privately educated individuals enhancing their existences via private income in their non-meritocratic NGOs, the critical nature of historical wealth and inheritance is carefully ignored.
Josiah Wedgwood: " Political democracies that don't democratise their economic systems are inherently unstable."
Capitalism has been a Ponzi scheme throughout its history - political scientists from Marx to Piketty have understood this fact.
Since 1700, the average annual rate of growth of the global economy has been 0.8%...
... and the average annual demographic growth in global population has been 0.8%.
Growth in income is expected to fall further throughout the 21st Century as the birth rate declines in lockstep across the world whilst, in parallel, systemic issues relating to planetary climatic stability move into primary focus.
The Ponzi scheme is running towards its precipitous conclusion and all that remains is the opportunity for imposition of redistributive policies to prevent the same fools from performing the same self-harming in a world of post-capitalist bliss.
There is only one solution to the first stage of the deconstruction of late capitalism - a markedly progressive tax on the largest fortunes worldwide (targeting both capital and income) to both prevent inheritance trumping meritocracy and to enforce an efficient use of capital for global rather than proprietary benefit.
Additionally, with such a progressive tax in place, the incentive to amass huge fortunes in the first place would be undermined.
Taxing Capital Progressively
Piketty: "... most countries' taxes have (or will soon) become regressive at the top of the income hierarchy. For example, a detailed study of French taxes in 2010, which looked at all forms of taxation, found that the overall rate of taxation... broke down as follows. The bottom 50% of the income distribution pay a rate of 40-45%; the next 40% pay 45-50%; but the top 5% and even more the top 1% pay lower rates, with the top 0.1% paying only 35%."
The annual global returns on capital are conservatively estimated at 5-6% while income growth is expected to struggle above zero this century.
Piketty: "Note, too, that inequality of income from capital may be greater than inequality of capital itself, if individuals with large fortunes somehow manage to obtain a higher return than those with modest to middling fortunes... Whenever the rate of return on capital is significantly and durably higher than the growth rate of the economy, it is all but inevitable that inheritance (the fortunes accumulated in the past) predominate over savings (wealth accumulated in the present)."
"... the ideal policy for avoiding an endless inegalitarian spiral and regaining control over the dynamics of accumulation would be a progressive global tax on capital. Such a tax would also have another virtue: it would expose wealth to democratic scrutiny, which is a necessary condition for effective regulation of the banking system and international capital flows."
"There are two distinct justifications of a capital tax; a contributive justification and an incentive justification... The primary purpose of the capital tax is not to finance the social state but to regulate capitalism."
The conventional focus on taxing income and targeting money laundering is merely a part of the jigsaw of fiscal justice - much more importantly, capital needs to be progressively taxed to avoid the inefficient use of such capital, the excessive returns generated by such non-meritocratic wealth and an end to austerity-based matrices of social injustice.
The most farcical argument against progressive income and capital taxes is that the elite would simply move to more tax-friendly locations. With global tax co-operation and an end to the opacity of offshore financial centres, there would moreover be nowhere left to slink off to.
Anyway - Piketty: "The idea that all US executives would immediately flee to Canada and Mexico and nobody with the competence or motivation to run the economy would remain is not only contradicted by historical experience and by all the firm level data at our disposal; it is also devoid of common sense."
Income Inequality - The Root Of All Financial Crises
National wealth has become markedly privatised in the last four decades.
Furthermore, as Piketty states, "... given the fact that the share of the upper decile in US national income has peaked twice in the past century, once in 1928 (on the eve of the Depression of 1929) and again in 2007 (on the eve of the recession of 2008, the question [does increasing inequality cause financial crisis?] is difficult to avoid."
Currently in the US, incomes are as unequally distributed as has ever been observed anywhere anytime - the top 1% gain 35% of income while the bottom 50% of population earn just 25%.
Piketty: "Effective tax rates (expressed as a percentage of economic income) are extremely low at the top of the wealth hierarchy, which is problematic, since it accentuates the explosive dynamics of wealth inequality, especially when larger fortunes are able to garner larger returns... The goal is first to stop the indefinite increase in the inequality of wealth, and second to impose effective regulation on the financial and banking system to avoid crises."
There are only three tools for getting rid of the current levels of debt in the developed nations - taxes on capital, inflation and austerity.
Austerity isn't a prerequisite, it is an option.
The privatisation of wealth in the last 40 years has seen huge rewards for "super-managers" - such rewards are not commensurate with performance.
Piketty: "... there is no statistically significant relationship between the decrease in top marginal tax rates and the rate of productivity growth in the developed countries since 1980. Concretely, the crucial fact is that the rate of per capita GDP growth has been almost exactly the same in all the rich countries since 1980. In contrast to what many people in Britain and the United States believe, the true figures on growth ... show that Britain and the United States have not grown any more rapidly since 1980 than Germany, France, Japan, Denmark or Sweden."
Of course, the mainstream media, governments and the financial system en masse don't want any focus on private wealth with their collective attempts to get us to pay attention to immediate income rather than long-term capital wealth. But their myopia is complete in that all Ponzi's possess the seeds of their own destruction.
Piketty: "... capitalists do indeed dig their own grave: either they tear each other apart in a desperate attempt to combat the falling rate of profit..., or they force labour to accept a smaller and smaller share of national income, which ultimately leads to a proletarian revolution and general expropriation. In any event capital is undermined by its internal contradictions."
Stiglitz has made a similar point.
Meanwhile, in a parallel sociopathic world, George Osborne increased the inheritance tax threshold this month.
Piketty: "To regulate the globalised patrimonial capitalism of the twenty-first century, rethinking the twentieth-century fiscal and social model and adapting it to today's world will not be enough. To be sure, appropriate updating of the last century's social-democratic and fiscal-liberal program is essential... But if democracy is to regain control the globalised financial capitalism of this century, it must also invent new tools, adapted to today's challenges. The ideal tool would be a progressive global tax on capital, coupled with a very high level of international financial transparency. Such a tax would provide a way to avoid an endless inegalitarian spiral and to control the worrisome dynamics of global capital concentration."
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