Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Recently we’ve been writing about a book that has risen to number one on the Amazon best seller list – to much fanfare in the progressive intellectual sphere – French economist Thomas Piketty’s Marx-inspired ”Capital in the Twenty-First Century.”

In the book, Piketty argues that pervasive inequality is the natural end of capitalism, with the wealthy growing wealthier as the rate of return on their assets outpaces overall economic growth. With the rich getting richer to the detriment of everyone else, Piketty proposes (i) taxing incomes on the highest earners at 80% rate, and (ii) levying an annual progressive global wealth tax.

In recent days, conservatives and libertarians have started to challenge Piketty’s assumptions and policy solutions, and today Rush Limbaugh weighed in and did not hold any punches, referring to “socialist, Marxist, communist economist [Piketty's]” ideas as being “absurd,” “stupid,” “dumb,” “ignorant” and portending “grave danger,” if they were to be applied.

Here’s how Limbaugh began his diatribe:

Rush Limbaugh (AP)

Rush Limbaugh (AP)

“Some French socialist, Marxist, communist economist has published a book, and the left in this country is having orgasms over it…It’s the most outrageous set of assumptions that I have ever read. In fact, it’s nothing new. It’s just repackaged, but I’m telling you the people on the left can barely contain themselves with their giddiness over this, and it portends grave danger for this country if any of this guy’s suggestions were to ever become adopted. And Obama is on his way to trying to adopt some of them, all on the basis of getting rid of income inequality. Can somebody tell me, when has there ever been income equality, and if you can tell me when there has been income equality, can you tell me what kind of lives those people had, and what kind of country they lived in, and what kind of liberty and freedom they had.”

Echoing a review from Dan Schuchman in the Wall Street Journal, Limbaugh continued:

This guy’s objective is to simply wipe out the wealthy
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“[Piketty's policies are not intended] to raise revenue for the government, but to eliminate those incomes. This guy’s objective is to simply wipe out the wealthy. And supposedly everybody is gonna be deliriously happy after this. It is absurd. It’s stupid. It’s dumb. It’s ignorant. It’s been tried, and it is being tried in every place in the world you wouldn’t want to live. And yet the left in this country and the Democrat Party and the media, they’re just chomping at the bit, excited as they can be.”

After noting that a key flaw in Piketty’s argument is that because of the mobility created by a relatively free economy, the “1%” is a heavily fluid group, not the static bloc that Piketty sees, Limbaugh argued that the truth about the left’s clamoring over the book is political:

During this year's State of the Union, President Obama argued that inequality is the "defining challenge of our time." (Image Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

During this year’s State of the Union, President Obama argued that inequality is the “defining challenge of our time.” (Image Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“The reason it’s being embraced is not just that it’s Marxism and socialism and communism. It’s embraced because it happens to coincide with Obama’s big push here on income inequality.

Obama is embracing this, and the left is embracing it because of Obama’s push on income inequality, as though there’s some moral sin in income inequality. There’s some moral sin in capitalism, and therefore there is a moral sin in the United States of America. The United States of America is a moral sin. It’s flawed deeply and morally because of the concentration of wealth in the top 1%. They are hoarding it. They are taking it from everybody. They are stealing it. They’re not sharing it, not redistributing it, giving it away. They’re not paying people enough and so forth.”

But for Limbaugh, the irony is that:

“To the extent that there is any concentration of wealth taking place in this country, let me tell you where it’s happening. Government. The richest counties in this country used to be in Florida, in California. They are now the suburbs of Washington, DC. Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of people who are in or associated with government. They are the 1%. This is conveniently ignored by people who thrill with delight at Piketty’s book.”

Limbaugh ended his lengthy segment with an impassioned message about equality and liberty:

“When has income ever been equal? If you don’t believe in free will and independence and liberty in a general sense, if you don’t believe in those things then you will find arguments about beneficent and wise, Big Government alluring. If you’re a coward; if you’re afraid to strike out on your own; if you’re afraid to take a risk; if you’re afraid to go for it; if you’d rather have the security of knowing you’re gonna be taken care of and at the same time somebody who did take a risk and it pays off and they become wealthy, they’re gonna be gotten even with, then Big Government’s for you. 

it’s not godly or humanly possible for there to be equality of outcome
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But if you believe in free will — we’ve got 200, 300 million people in this country and every one of us is different. There is nothing about any of us that is equal. That is what the law is to do. But there is no guarantee, there can’t be a guarantee, there never was a guarantee, it’s not godly or humanly possible for there to be equality of outcome.

…Liberty and freedom are taken for granted by people who are born to it, and, as such, they’re the last to recognize it being encroached upon. But it is in the process of happening. Daily people are losing liberty. Daily people are losing freedom. Daily more and more people are afraid to tell you what they really think about something. We are being ruled, we are being governed by a genuine minority…The left is not the majority in this country. But they’ve made themselves look like they are with the help of the media, who are perhaps the leaders by design in this thing.”

You can hear the last part of Rush’s discussion below, via the Daily Rushbo: