A Critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality

by Anne Cudd on December 10, 2015

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an important and valuable contribution to political economy, both empirically and philosophically. Piketty grounds his theory in vast empirical data,rather than settling for elegant mathematical models. He courageously embraces the fact that economic theory is inevitably value laden, and proposes a theory of the historical dynamics of wealth accumulation in order to offer an updated moral critique of capitalism. Grounding his prediction in the historical data and profoundly simple mathematics, Piketty projects that economic inequality is likely to increase and to favor those who own inherited capital over time. He advances the normative judgment that rising inequality is unjust and must be contained. Although Piketty raises important concerns about the possibility of growing wealth inequality, he fails to normatively ground or argue for his presupposition that this inequality is unjust. Since relative poverty can coincide with high levels of objective or subjective well-being, this presupposition is brought into question. However, there are causes of inequality (including wealth inequality) that clearly can be shown to be unjust. By considering other forms and causes of inequality and oppression, we can distinguish between those forms of wealth inequality that are unjust and those that are normatively benign. In this way Piketty’s concerns about growing wealth inequality from inheritance can be partly justified, though of course not empirically verified. Piketty’s argument for the injustice of growing economic inequality has two parts. The first part is an empirical, economic argument for the claim that returns from inherited wealth will far outstrip income. This argument can be summarized as follows. Let r be the rate of return on capital, and g be the growth rate of the annual flow of national income.

  1. If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

  2. Individuals who own a greater amount of capital earn a larger r.

  3. Growth, g, is likely to be slower in future.

  4. If r is great enough and g is low enough, then there will be ever more capital from older, inherited wealth, than from wealth saved from income.

  5. Hence, (wealth) inequality will increase, and inherited wealth will make up the greatest amount of capital.

A few of these premises bear some explanation. The second premise is an empirical regularity that can be easily illustrated, as Piketty does by examining university endowments of varying sizes and showing that their real rates of return on the endowment vary directly with size.(p.448) The explanation he gives is that there are returns to scale for financial advisors, and the wealthiest can afford the kind of investment expertise that allow their endowments to outperform the average rate of return on capital. In essence, greater wealth generates even greater wealth. Premise 3 is accepted widely, though not universally, and not until an economy has achieved a modern level of development, like economies in Europe and North America. Premise 4 follows from Piketty’s Second Fundamental Law of Capitalism: beta=s/g, where beta is the capital/income ratio, s is the savings rate, and g is the growth rate. This law implies that ‘a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock of capital (relative to its income).’ The conclusion is that ‘in a quasi-stagnant society, wealth accumulated in the past will inevitably acquire disproportionate importance.’ (p166)

Are these premises true, and is this a sound argument? I will not question premises 1, 2, or 3, which are largely empirical, economic premises, although others have done so. I will note that premise 4 depends in part on Piketty’s contested way of evaluating the value of housing, which accounts for a great deal of the capital accumulation. Furthermore, Piketty dismisses human capital as a form of capital, even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates’s example would attest.[^7] The question of how to understand the role of human capital in the dynamics and morality of inequality would be a great topic for another blog post, but I won’t pursue it here.

My main concern is with Piketty’s normative argument, which is naturally less fully spelled out, but we can reconstruct it as follows:

  1. Any inequality that is not justified is unjust.

  2. Economic inequality is unjustified: it either comes from a fraudulent claim about merit or from inheritance.

  3. Therefore, economic inequality is unjust.

Piketty assumes from the beginning what can be called ‘the equality presumption,’ that all inequalities are presumed unjust unless they are justified by appeal to some grounding ethical norm, or premise 6. The epigraph of the book, taken from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which reads: ‘Social distinctions can be based only on common utility,’ suggests that Piketty holds this view. However, the equality presumption is false; it is a fallacy akin to the principle of insufficient reason, which assumes equiprobability of events where there is no reason to assign another probability. But there is also no reason to assign equal probability rather than any other, and thus rationality cannot demand that. By the same token, morality cannot demand equal shares of a good (or bad) in the absence of a reason for it. I take this to be a point of logic, not morality. But the point can also be illustrated with a homey example. I have two different dinner parties, at one party I invite one group and the other party I invite a different group. Suppose the number of people I invite to each party is unequal. It is an inequality with no justification and yet licenses no moral approbation. In this case, to claim that I ought to have equal numbers of people at my dinner party would require justification.

As a result of the equality presumption, Piketty tends to conflate relative with absolute poverty. That is, he tends to talk about ‘the poor’ when he means the relatively poor, and to assume that relative poverty is an unjust condition. Speaking about Europe he writes, ‘The poorer half of the population are as poor today as they were in the past, barely 5% of total wealth in 2010, just as in 1910.’ (p. 261) But surely this contemporary poverty is only the relative kind; the standard of living of the two time periods is wildly different by any standard.[^8] While absolute poverty is clearly an unjust condition when others have more than enough to live on, relative poverty is not unless one embraces the equality presumption. Without assuming premise 7, relative poverty is not always unjust. Thus, we need criteria for distinguishing just from unjust inequalities.

To show that inequality is unjust, it must be shown that it is caused by an injustice or that it leads to one. Oppression is a basic form of injustice and it can cause wealth inequality (as well as political and social inequality). Oppression causes stigma and shame in the oppressed. Wealth inequality can mark persons by denying them certain opportunities or goods when others can have them. Thus, the stigma of oppression is transmitted by the denial of access created by relative poverty. Such inequalities, which transmit oppression, are therefore unjust.

Piketty fails to invoke oppression as a cause or type of injustice underlying inequality even when it would have been useful or simply sensitive to do so. For example he writes ‘inequality reached its lowest ebb in the United States between 1950 and 1980,’ but this is surely not the case for women, who were denied entry into many universities and occupations during much of this time, and who lacked many other freedoms, which they are only now achieving. He does add shortly after that passage “at least for those US citizens whose skin was white,” indicating that he recognizes the interaction between racial oppression and wealth inequality. But this is one of the only places where he discusses race, surely a crucial vector of oppression and cause of wealth inequality.

Later in the book, in the context of discussing the situation of the generation born in the period 1910–20 he writes: Talking about those born 1910–20, ‘for the first time in history, no doubt, one could live better by obtaining a job in the top centile rather than an inheritance in the top centile: study, work, and talent paid better than inheritance.’ (p. 408) This passage is androcentric. Women of this generation – over half of the people in that generation – would be neither gaining such work nor inheriting much. They would have been prevented by their sex – an immutable fact marking them for life – from applying for or even aspiring to such study or work regardless of their talents. Not having a lot of capital is one thing and does create wealth inequality and relative poverty with the rich, but being prevented from entering occupations due to one’s race or gender is an entirely different matter, one that is not a matter of relative good or bad, but absolutely and unequivocally an injustice. But to the point of this discussion: the case of oppression shows directly why inequalities that stem from them are wrong without having to infer indirectly that an inequality that cannot be justified must be wrong.

Piketty is most concerned about the inequalities created by inherited wealth. But if the equality presumption is denied, then an argument is needed to show that inequality from inherited wealth is unjust. Inherited wealth created inequality is unjust if it harms others. To the degree that there is a zero sum aspect of wealth, as with any form of wealth inequality, inheritance that creates inequality harms others. It seems that Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital or income as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true. Investment of capital creates improvements in standard of living for all. Furthermore, there is some social good created by the ability to give wealth to others. But as with any cause of wealth inequality, the result is that the wealthy can outbid the relatively poor for goods that ought to be made available to all, such as education and healthcare, at least to some degree. This merely shows that there needs to be social provision of a floor level of provision of such goods, and not that inherited wealth is a problem per se.

When wealth inequalities stem from unjust inheritances, such as inheritance of wealth created from slavery or from unjust takings in the Holocaust, these inequalities are clearly unjust. Piketty recognizes that inheritance can transmit unjust inequalities from the past. He writes:

The inequality r$>$g in one sense implies that the past tends to devour the future: wealth originating in the past automatically grows more rapidly, even without labor, than wealth stemming from work, which can be saved. Almost inevitably, this tends to give lasting, disproportionate importance to inequalities created in the past, and therefore to inheritance. (p. 378, emphasis mine)

However, he seems to be implying that all wealth inequalities that are transmitted by inheritance are unjust because they are transmitting inequalities from the past. Can this conclusion supported without the equality presumption?

Inherited inequality does bear some resemblance to oppression. Inherited wealth creates a club that one can only be born into, an immutable social fact that marks the wealthy aristocracy as privileged and the relatively poor or those who have made their wealth through income as less worthy. In this way inherited wealth creates a privileged group like other forms of oppression. It is crucial to note, however, that if we do not make the equality presumption, it is not the inequality itself that is oppressive.

Income-related inequalities cannot be said to transmit injustice in the way that inherited ones do. To show that income inequalities are unjust, they also have to be shown to derive from injustice or to lead to injustice. Piketty argues that top managers today are paid unjustifiably large salaries because it is too difficult to assess the marginal productivity, and in the absence of any information they are able to manipulate their own and each other’s wages. A market failure is not an injustice, though it is a justification of government regulation. A significant cause of income inequality is the differences in human capital developed through education. Piketty notes that the educational systems in Europe and especially the US tend to prevent rather than promote social mobility, and instead transmit privilege. ‘Parents’ income has become an almost perfect predictor of university access.’ (p. 485) Piketty’s explanation seems to be that it is because wealthy parents buy places for their children in universities, but I think this overestimates the corruption in university admissions and it underestimates the degree of stratification of the developed academic abilities of college age students. Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children’s abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods. Especially elite universities in the US compete very hard to find and attract low income and minority students, but the competition is stiff for qualified students who will not need remediation in order to succeed.

One of Piketty’s most interesting points concerns the changing structure of inequality. His research reveals the emergence of what he calls a patrimonial middle class. In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%. In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital, while in Europe the top 10% own 60% and the next 40% own 35% of capital. ‘The emergence of a ‘patrimonial middle class’ owning between a quarter and a third of national wealth rather than a tenth or a twentieth (scarcely more than the poorest half of society) represents a major social transformation.’ (p.373) The existence of this large relatively wealthy middle class makes the experience of being in the propertyless class qualitatively different, in a way that needs to be investigated. The stigmatizing of an out-group by the existence of the relatively wealthy is a psychological harm, and arguably an injustice engendered. Is this stigma an inevitable outcome of wealth inequality? What level and what structure of inequality creates this? What other social facts make a difference to the development of stigma based on wealth inequality? These are important questions for social psychology to consider.

A final point concerns the role Piketty assigns economics as a normative discipline. Piketty claims that ‘economics is a subdiscipline of the social sciences, alongside history, sociology, anthropology, and political science.’ (p.573) While he is right to point out the essential interdisciplinarity of social science, he omits what I think is a very important piece of the overall normative picture in omitting social psychology. I have argued that to show that wealth inequality is unjust, and when it is unjust, requires social psychology to weigh in about stigma and the structure of inequality in a society (or globally). Furthermore, Piketty claims a distinct normativity to ‘political economy,’ the expression he prefers to ‘economic science.’ He writes that the ‘thing that sets economics apart from the other social sciences: its political, normative, and moral purpose.’ I agree with this basic point, but disagree with Piketty’s overall taxonomy of the social sciences and their relation to normative analysis.

{ 117 comments }

1

T 12.10.15 at 4:24 pm

“To show that income inequalities are unjust, they also have to be shown to derive from injustice or to lead to injustice.” First, thank you for taking the time to join the group blog. Second, it seems that high income and high wealth individuals have been very effective in tilting the tax, regulatory, and legal environment even more in their favor thereby increasing the inequality that you may argue was not originally unjust. Do you think those behaviors lead to unjust income inequality? Do you think those behaviors are a necessary consequence of increased wealth and income inequality?

2

Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 4:29 pm

Interesting and challenging comment which will take several readings to understand and evaluate the many different arguments being made
.
Here is why Piketty thinks a rentier society contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies: “…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by whichI I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death.” p. 422

I understand Cudd to be raising a neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant’s book on neo-liberalism–that if a fortune has been made through no injustice to a concrete other and its gifting and bequeathing does no concrete injustice to another,then there is no coherent ideal of social justice (Hayek’s idea that social justice is mirage) that would allow us to condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be.

Yet a rentier society would actually undermine social utility by reducing the incentives for entrepreneurial exertion; the largest incomes also could not be justified in terms of meritocratic principles; and rentiers would be in a position to use the political process to extract not what Piketty calls rent in terms of the income of a rentier but what most economists mean by rents. The last would have no justification in terms of welfare economics (of which Cudd gives an eloquent defense in her book on capitalism). Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it.

Plus, the wealth concentration of a rentier society would not be accepted in a Rawlsian original position and to the extent that some wealth is needed to exercise one’s capabilities would be unjustifiable from Sen’s and Nussbaum’s capabilities theory. Piketty expresses sympathy for both normative political theories.

Now Cudd also notes that Piketty argues that the astronomical pay of super-managers cannot be justified in meritocratic terms; his argument is more developed than she lets on–it involves cross-sectional comparison and econometric analysis, controlling for luck and other factors in company performance outside the control of a supermanager as well as the inapplicability of marginal productivity theory to the unique jobs that a CEO does. Plus, he gives an institutional analysis of the way in which CEO’s can capture boards and how their incentive to do so rose with lower marginal tax rates. Of course that Piketty undermines this justification does not necessarily mean that such compensation is unjustified, but he does undermine the meritocratic justification that is given for it.

3

MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm

“When wealth inequalities stem from unjust inheritances”

Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an “unjust” inheritance? Serious question.

/Correct answer is no.

4

Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm

Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital . . . as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true. Investment of capital creates improvements in standard of living for all.

that is clearly not true” seems a bit emphatic for a proposition that should not be clear at all. It might be the case that an instance of capital investment improves the standard of living or it might be immiserating. A wealthy investor might invest in a payday loan operation with a remarkable return on investment. A corporation might invest in automation of a production process and bargain for a reduction of wages for the now less numerous and “less-skilled” workforce.

The emblematic condition of Piketty’s work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed.

We can certainly hope for the kind of capital investments that result in economic growth that exceeds the return to the owners of capital, but that’s not the world Piketty is worried about.

5

Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:47 pm

Piketty argues that top managers today are paid unjustifiably large salaries because it is too difficult to assess the marginal productivity, and in the absence of any information they are able to manipulate their own and each other’s wages. A market failure is not an injustice . . .

Calling an exercise of power and authority in a bureaucratic hierarchy “a market failure” is an error of ideological obduracy, since hierarchies are not “markets”. Hierarchies of authority make economic use of social domination, which is, at least, potentially problematic for justice.

6

Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:53 pm

A significant cause of income inequality is the differences in human capital developed through education. Piketty notes that the educational systems in Europe and especially the US tend to prevent rather than promote social mobility, and instead transmit privilege. ‘Parents’ income has become an almost perfect predictor of university access.’ (p. 485) Piketty’s explanation seems to be that it is because wealthy parents buy places for their children in universities, but I think this overestimates the corruption in university admissions and it underestimates the degree of stratification of the developed academic abilities of college age students. Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children’s abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods. Especially elite universities in the US compete very hard to find and attract low income and minority students, but the competition is stiff for qualified students who will not need remediation in order to succeed.

Demand for low-cost tokens is outrunning supply.

7

Trader Joe 12.10.15 at 5:03 pm

I struggle a lot with the concept of inheretance and when/when not justified. Its easy to see how its unfair/unjustified when the amounts are signficant, far less so when they are not.

If I’m a Rockefeller and hand over the emprire to my children, its easy to see an undeserved conferred advantage.

If I’m farmer Joe who has worked my farm all my life, own it outright through my labor and savings and then want to pass that to my children, who have also worked it all their life(s), so that it can sustain them the same way as it sustained me – it seems far more fair though it still confers on them an advantage of priveldged and if they successfully manage that advantage they should be able to make it grow. Over some number of generations, the differences would collapse.

I think its a very natural instinct for a parent to want to transmit advantage to their children. Teaching them and nurturing their character are never criticized though no less an asset than dollars or farms.

I can see how the provision of an elite education transmits priveledge, but I’malso hard pressed to suggest a child should be denied the best possible education that they can get. If a child has intellectual talent it should be developed regardless of whether they come from a rich or poor family.

One take away from Picketty could be the best possible biological strategy is to try to get as rich as you possibly can because that’s the best possible insurance for perpetuating your DNA. Probably not the policy prescription being encouraged, but certainly supported by the data.

8

Paul 12.10.15 at 5:21 pm

All property rights are oppressive; they ammount to the restriction of the freedom of the non-proprty owner. Unless one wants to go communist (and argue that it is possible to create a society without property rights) or libertarian (and argue that property rights somehow exist a priori of society), any society is necessarily oppressive and unjust. The goal is to minimise this injustice without creating others or destroying the ability if society to function.
So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is “oppression”. Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition.

9

notsneaky 12.10.15 at 5:43 pm

“Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an “unjust” inheritance?”

So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is “unjustified”?

10

MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 5:55 pm

“So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is “unjustified”?”

Yes. Of course. None of us get what we deserve. Do you really believe otherwise?

11

MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 5:55 pm

“So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is “oppression”. Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition.”

Yep. Property is violence. Maybe beneficial violence in the utilitarian sense but violence all the same.

12

Ze K 12.10.15 at 6:34 pm

Nothing is a priori just or unjust; Thomas More had slaves in his Utopia.

However, when a socio-economic arrangement reaches a phase where its fairness is commonly questioned, that’s a sure sign that the dominant ideology fails to convince, and the system is in trouble. Doesn’t mean it’s going to collapse tomorrow, obviously.

13

Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 6:45 pm

It could be argued that entrepreneurial behavior is already individually irrational–see Kahneman and Tversky. But it is often motivated at least partially by the dream of creating dynastic wealth and glory. Otherwise, it would make little sense to do the hard labor of thinking of new ways of doing things, convincing financiers of the worthiness of the project and giving up more secure incomes. One could worry that Piketty has exaggerated the importance of inherited wealth even in the face of his own evidence (only a small fraction of the top 1% receive most of their income as rentier rent IIRC) and that he has under-estimated its importance as an economic incentive for entrepreneurial labor and that he has also underestimated the extent to which great fortunes dissipate over time due to the growth of heirs and reasonable taxation.

14

MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm

“Nothing is a priori just or unjust”

He said as he foreclosed on the poor family and cast them out to starve in the street.

15

cassander 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm

>If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It’s not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn’t describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake.

> Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children’s abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods.

large american urban school districts are not just the best funded in the country, they’re the best funded in the world. And what Bruce says about market failure applies equally well here. people have voted massive amounts of money for urban schools, when those state run schools fail to perform well despite these resources, the failure cannot possibly be attributed to market forces.

> In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%.

In a perfectly equal society where no one inherited anything, everyone got exactly the same starting salary, saved the same amount, got the same raise every year and earned the same rate of return, the richest 1/5 would still control 66% of the wealth just due to cohort effects. This simple characterizations of wealth inequality by quintiles or deciles do more to conceal than to reveal. what matters is not snapshots, but lifetime expectations. These, however, are harder to calculate and make for much less snappy talking points

16

Paul 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm

17

Paul 12.10.15 at 7:00 pm

My reading of r>g is that its piketty’s attempt to put an overarching intellectual framework over his results and that its the least successful part of the work, although brad delong has made pretty good sense of it here
https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.econ.hit-u.ac.jp/~makoto/Piketty_readings/Delong_2015.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjzgOzL-9HJAhVBJw8KHaGUCs4QFgg7MAg&usg=AFQjCNHzhIA3Rx-qOko8OscTIj1HcIp7Kw&sig2=7BiCJ3YZDr6-wMQMbYZ_lg
But even if you consider it in error its the conclusion more than the foundation. The data speaks for itself.
Cassander @15: I read your comment as “even a pretty equal society would be pretty unequal”. The definition if a ” pretty equal” society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

18

notsneaky 12.10.15 at 7:12 pm

@10 Ok, then…

19

Layman 12.10.15 at 7:13 pm

If we are to complain that Piketty fails to demonstrate that income inequalities originate from or lead to injustices, can we not also complain that he fails to demonstrate that the sun rises in the east, or that night follows day, or that it is quite difficult to put the toothpaste back into the tube? While this is not as bad as complaining that he fails to discuss 20th- and 21st- century novels, it approaches that degree of badness.

20

MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 7:18 pm

“@10 Ok, then…”

Not really much of a response considering how ridiculous the “just desserts” theory of life is.

21

cassander 12.10.15 at 7:49 pm

@Paul

>This is an interesting paper about the non-disspation of wealth:

I just skimmed it, but that the paper argues that there’s a great deal of dissipation of wealth, just that it’s well below 100% dissipation.

>The definition if a ” pretty equal” society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

If everyone was born 2 feet tall and got 10% taller a year, then the tallest 20% would have 80% of the height. the point of the math I laid out is precisely that “a society where everyone has the same amount of stuff” and “a society where everyone gets the same amount of stuff” are not the same, despite our basic instinct that they should be.

22

T 12.10.15 at 7:52 pm

@16

This and other studies using unique surnames tends to suggest that mobility may be overstated.
http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/papers/Sweden%202012%20AUG.pdf

23

engels 12.10.15 at 7:53 pm

Apologies if I’ve misunderstood but does the OP really think that someone who affirm’s Paine’s maxim that

‘Social distinctions can be based only on common utility,

must believe that someone’s inviting different numbers of people to two different dinner parties is unjust?

24

Paul 12.10.15 at 8:02 pm

@cassander
But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not? And piketty’s shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.
I can see your point that headline numbers can be misleading, but piketty also shows a clear trend, that wealth is becoming more concentrated. Unless the metrics are somehow a deteriorating representation if reality that’s a real thing.

25

cassander 12.10.15 at 8:55 pm

@Paul

>But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not?

For some definitions of unequal, yes, but I say those framing are not particularly useful We are all born ignorant and spend a lifetime accumulating knowledge, but we do not lament the “knowledge gap” between old and young. A world where everyone made X dollars a year, except for their 20th year when they make 1000X would not have a Gini score of 0, but I would call that world equal.

> And piketty’s shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.

It shows that most people aren’t accumulating YET. In the real world, people do not save X percent of their income a year, they they consume a larger share of their income when young (consume much more than their income, actually) and save more as they age, for obvious reasons. That’s why you have to look at wealth over lifetimes, not in snapshots.

26

Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:15 pm

@ 15 Cassander

“>If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It’s not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn’t describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake.”

It’s not saying that wealthy dynasties don’t fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey.

These people need the financial sector to put their money to work. And as we’ve seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

27

Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:21 pm

And the one percent also effect politics and policy through their generous campaign contributions (Koch brothers); sponsorship of think tanks; ownership of mass media (think Rupert Murdoch); etc. etc.

Politics and policy can effect both *r* and *g.*

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/us/politics/illinois-campaign-money-bruce-rauner.html

“Around the same time that Mr. Rauner began running for governor, a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country’s first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.

Their replies were striking. Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois’s two United States senators.

Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.

“Probably the biggest single area of disconnect has to do with social welfare programs,” said Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study. “The other big area has to do with paying for those programs, particularly taxes on high-income and wealthy people.””

28

Soru 12.10.15 at 9:40 pm

One thing is that in reality, setting ‘the wealth of a new born’ as zero is rather arbitrary. In one country they might get , by right of citizenship, X dollars of security, legal, health and welfare services. In another, Y dollars..

Both have no money, but if X >> Y, then they are going to have very different average expected life outcomes.

At a high zero point, you get cops and judges who uphold the law, at a low one you can hire some bodyguards. At high zero point you can go to a library, at a low one hire a hack to write your autobiography.

You can extend that to cases of active oppression by giving that a dollar equivalent and a minus sign. After all, even slavery could usually be escaped from, in theory, by buying yourself…

Thing is, the _potential_ floor of wealth in a modern society _could be_ as far above active oppression as room temperature is above absolute zero.

And raising it never stops being a good.

29

T 12.10.15 at 9:53 pm

@27
Exactly. Regardless of how how rich got that way there is no question that they are using their wealth to increase and capture economic rents and to take actions that diminish income and wealth mobility. To the extent the economy veers to increased rent seeking, it could very well lower future growth by diverting resources to non-productive activities. If this behavior is baked in as inequality reaches a certain threshold, then it is inherently unjust. To the extent its not always baked in, it has certainly had that effect in the US over the last 30 years. Consequently, we can conclude that current levels of US inequality are unjust.

30

Mike Furlan 12.10.15 at 10:27 pm

31

cassander 12.10.15 at 10:31 pm

@Peter K.

>It’s not saying that wealthy dynasties don’t fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

That’s explicitly the argument pikety makes with R>G, that the rich get richer by virtue of being rich, not that the moderately well off occasionally become rich by some other means. None of the people you mention got rich by sitting on accumulated capital, nor did any of the fortune 500.

>And as we’ve seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

getting rich by playing financier with other people’s investments is not what pikety is talking about. Warren Buffet’s fortune, and almost every other financial fortune I can think of, was made by taking a percentage of the profit he got from investing other people’s money, not his own.

32

js. 12.10.15 at 10:50 pm

However, the equality presumption is false; it is a fallacy akin to the principle of insufficient reason, which assumes equiprobability of events where there is no reason to assign another probability. But there is also no reason to assign equal probability rather than any other, and thus rationality cannot demand that. By the same token, morality cannot demand equal shares of a good (or bad) in the absence of a reason for it. I take this to be a point of logic, not morality.

This is almost bizarrely unconvincing. You seem to be using “inequality” in a purely formal sense—a sense in which “4 > 2” counts as an inequality. In this sense of the word, it may well be true that there is no presumption of equality. But that fact has no bearing on whether or not a presumption of equality is plausible in the case of interest, namely social and economic inequalities. In this particular case, if there is a widespread moral intuition in favor of the presumption of equality (as I think there is), you can’t simply hand-wave away the presumption as a “matter of logic”. You need to either (a) show that there is in fact no such widespread intuition, or (b) provide some sort of error theory for this intuition. And until one of these arguments is forthcoming, I’ll continue to think that the presumption of equality has quite a bit going for it.

33

Tabasco 12.10.15 at 11:05 pm

wealthy dynasties don’t fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class). Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey

Gates is giving his money away. Buffet and Zuckerberg say they are going to give away their money. So, no dynasties there.

34

T 12.10.15 at 11:32 pm

@33

As for dynastic wealth, there are 4 Waltons, 3 Mars, and 2 Kochs among the top 18 richest Americans. That’s 50%. Pinketty is forecasting a future of dynastic wealth, the Forbes 400 in 30 years. It’s the kids of today’s plutocrats that will be the beneficiaries.

35

UserGoogol 12.10.15 at 11:50 pm

Paul @ 8: I’d push against that in multiple directions. Even without property per se, some degree of excluding people from using resources is inevitable just from being an organism living in a world of limited resources. If I eat some food, I exclude others from eating that food. Property gives people rather extensive abilities to exclude others from using resources far beyond what is strictly necessary in a state of nature, but any existence involves curtailing the freedoms of others. The only way to have absolute freedom is to be God.

But by the same token it seems kind of vacuous and silly to call that injustice. Minimizing the amount of suffering (or keeping the suffering within “reasonable” bounds) seems like a more sensible way of defining that word.

To get back to the actual point you were making instead of making vague philosophical rumbling, property certainly ipso facto causes some degree of restriction of freedom and this is something deserving of critical attention. But I don’t think you can usefully say that they’re oppressive by definition.

36

F. Foundling 12.10.15 at 11:52 pm

The OP’s notion of justice is not explained in the text, but it seems to be different from mine, and, I think, from that of many others. I think most people would agree that a just distribution is a distribution in accordance with the merits and/or needs of the individuals. Any deviation from such a distribution, for whatever reason, is unjust (it ‘harms others’ in the sense that the same resource could have been allocated to others more deserving of it based on their merits/needs, and the fact that more wealth has been created doesn’t change anything as long as that new wealth is not distributed according to the same principle). This means that inheritance-determined distribution is inevitably unjust, just as any other distribution that is not deliberately made to reflect the merits and/or needs of the individuals can be reasonably assumed to be unjust by default, for the same reason that any random lottery ticket can be assumed not to be winning the jackpot, and any random sequence of body movements can be assumed not to result in the making of a sandwitch.

The equality presumption is basic to most people’s sense of justice: most people, when asked to divide a loaf of bread ‘justly’ between two complete strangers of whom they know nothing, will split it into two equal parts unless there is an obvious criterion by which to differentiate (size, age, gender, caste, etc.). Indeed, even when the bread is distributed unequally in accordance with one or more of these characteristics, the very fact that the difference in share size is made proportionate to the difference in the chosen characteristic(s) shows that no other inequality is assumed apart from the one explicitly entailed by the characteristic – i.e. equality is assumed by default ‘other things being equal’. Yes, it is very unlikely that these two random strangers really are *precisely* equally good and deserving; the point is that we have no *right* to assume otherwise, and as humans they have a *right* to be treated equally unless there is a specific reason for the contrary.

37

Bruce B. 12.11.15 at 12:26 am

It’s worth noting that in a lot of cases where a particular family dynasty falls apart, a great deal of the money doesn’t travel far. It goes to co-owners of shared enterprises, colleagues and rivals, and others in the same stratum. Cash can flow out quickly, but lots of assets hang around, and get used by someone close at hand.

If the principle that “since I didn’t set out to harm anyone, you have no right to tax my stuff” were taken seriously in general, we wouldn’t have laws against pollution or having your car run over someone because you didn’t set the parking break. The idea sounds appealing widely at first hearing, but it doesn’t take much of a context to establish how incompatible it is with a bunch of other moral reasoning.

38

John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 12:41 am

The OP seems to be completely misconceived. As Cudd concedes, Piketty presents a positive analysis predicting that inherited wealth will become dominant, and doesn’t spell out any theory of justice, though it’s obvious that he thinks this is a bad thing.

So, Cudd makes up a theory of justice, imputes it to Piketty and then says it hasn’t been proven. What’s more she writes as this topic is being addressed for the first time. She doesn’t mention any of the vast number of people who’ve written on equality and whose arguments might be relevant here.

The closest actual engagement with Piketty is her reference to the epigraph ‘Social distinctions can be based only on common utility,’ which would most naturally be interpreted in utilitarian terms (that’s the default assumption for an economist anyway). So, Piketty can be taken to say that a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality is unlikely to promote common (aggregate) utility. There are plenty of arguments that can be made for or against this, but Cudd doesn’t even bother. Having cited the epigraph, she never again mentions utility.

39

js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am

UserGoogol @35 — I’d make it even simpler: if you’ve got a conception of “justice” such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible, then whatever you’ve got is not a conception of justice.

40

F. Foundling 12.11.15 at 1:03 am

@F. Foundling 12.10.15 at 11:52 pm
>any random sequence of body movements can be assumed not to result in the making of a sandwitch

Hmm. Strictly speaking, a sandwitch is probably a very dangerous type of enchantress that inhabits deserts and beaches, but I still feel justified in my contention that she most likely would not arise as a result of anyone’s random body movements. And neither would equitable wealth distribution.

41

engels 12.11.15 at 1:05 am

I agree with other posters. The OP ‘reconstructed’ an argument Piketty never made about a topic he didn’t address, and then complained about how bad it is (and for really unconvincing reasons). It’s not often you see someone lose an argument so badly with a straw man of their own construction.

42

Robb Lutton 12.11.15 at 1:16 am

…In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital,…

This cannot be true else there would be no inequality as it would mean the bottom 50% would have 50% of capital.

43

faustusnotes 12.11.15 at 1:47 am

Is the OP seriously starting the argument from a claim that income inequality is not unjust?

44

Markos Valaris 12.11.15 at 1:51 am

js, UserGoogol, I suspect Paul is after something somewhat different, which is the idea that using force to exclude others from some resources must *either* be backed by good reasons *or* count as oppressive/unjust. This doesn’t seem crazy, and it would generate the kind of request for justification the OP puzzles about.

45

LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am

I haven’t read the comment thread with great care but I have the read the OP.

It seems to be the basic argument of the OP is roughly this:

1) Absolute poverty (in today’s world) is always unjust, but relative poverty resulting from economic inequalities is not necessarily always (or even presumptively) unjust. Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren’t, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we’re talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

2) Economic inequalities resulting in or reflecting relative (not absolute) poverty are unjust when they are caused by (or transmit) oppression and/or discrimination, or when they ‘stigmatize’ and thereby cause psychological harm to an identifiable group. This point I think is more controversial but interesting and defensible, at least with a more elaborate account, which I take it the author of the OP has given elsewhere.

As for where the OP directly engages with and criticizes Piketty, I’m not well-placed to get into this, but ISTM the passage where the OP criticizes him for ignoring the factor of oppression, e.g. w/r/t women in particular time periods, cd be taken as a reasonable criticism.

When read with some care, the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position, istm, as some commenters here apparently think.

46

LFC 12.11.15 at 2:12 am

(p.s. which is *not* to say I necessarily agree w all of the OP.)

47

LFC 12.11.15 at 2:27 am

One last thing: the criterion of “stigma” is arguably not that far from the Rawlsian criterion of ‘self-respect’ (which came up in the thread on Chris B’s post), or at least it might be related… If one feels stigmatized or is objectively stigmatized by a particular situation of ec. inequality, then the social bases of self-respect are not being met. The OP refers to “social psychology” as tool of empirical investigation here, whereas in the other thread we were talking about moral psychology, but obvs. there’s a common element: psychology.

48

Matt 12.11.15 at 3:52 am

LFC’s reconstruction of the post strikes me as not only charitable, but pretty much obviously right. I’m pretty surprised, and sorry, to see the comments mostly get on the wrong foot and not address what’s interesting in the post.

49

John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 4:20 am

‘Surely not the case for women’. This is far from obvious. 40 per cent of female headed families live in poverty.
\http://www.epi.org/publication/female-headed-families-children-poverty/

This is an absolute poverty line set in the early 1960s, so the position of these families relative to the median household is considerably worse. Relative to the top 1 per cent of households, the gap has grown enormously.

The poverty rate for female headed households has barely changed since the 1970s, but (I think) the proportion of such households has increased substantially. On the other side of that equation, the proportion of couple households with two high incomes has also risen.

So, while it’s certainly true that the wages of employed women have risen relative to those of employed men, that doesn’t mean that gender based inequality and poverty have declined.

I haven’t got a conclusive answer on this, but if it’s going to be the central point of a critique it deserves more than a handwaving “surely”.

50

F. Foundling 12.11.15 at 4:31 am

@js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am
>if you’ve got a conception of “justice” such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible …

A banal point, probably, but AFAICS, everything is unjust compared to perfect justice, and perfect justice is impossible, because perfect anything is impossible. Not a reason not to keep ‘perfecting’ things. It’s what humans do.

@LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am
>the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position

‘Some’ does a lot of work here.

>Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren’t, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we’re talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

The problem is that the OP’s idea of what it takes to prove an inequality to be unjust is highly restricted. Not only is inequality assumed to be just until the opposite is proven, but it is argued that even if an inequality demonstrably, as Piketty claims, lacks any basis in merit (a blatant example being the case of inheritance), this is still not sufficient to make it unjust. That inequality per se does not even need to be justified by merit, or in any way at all, is a position so radically and counterintuitively anti-egalitarian that even right-wingers usually won’t take it openly (rather, they’ll insist that there is, in fact, a merit that justifies it). You see, only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls ‘stigma’ and ‘oppression’ might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don’t think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

51

js. 12.11.15 at 4:35 am

Hey Markos, it’s Jamsheed. I think I see what you’re saying—maybe. If that’s what Paul was getting at, fair enough. But if I’m understanding you correctly, I think it still ends up turning on the “equality presumption” bit, on which see below.

LFC — I agree with you that Cudd is sympathetic to egalitarianism in the post—and her points about gender inequality are well taken. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. It just seems to me that she’s given up a good direct argument against inequality for a considerably more circuitous one—for reasons that remain utterly opaque to me. (For one thing, all those old homilies about the “gentler and fairer sex” can be taken as ways to defeat the equality presumption, which would militate against gender inequality; one could of course find more modern equivalents too.)

Anyway, this still seems wrong to me:

one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we’re talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust

I really think it’s the other way around. One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust—one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that’s rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

52

LFC 12.11.15 at 4:44 am

Matt @48
Thanks.
(Btw, in re-reading my comment @45, I see there are typos in the first two lines — sorry.)9

JQ @49: I said that “could be” a reasonable pt of criticism of P., but I don’t/didn’t know the empirics, so wasn’t endorsing.

53

A H 12.11.15 at 4:46 am

I read Piketty as being a reformist liberal similar to Keynes. The reason wealth inequality is bad is because it threatens meritocratic liberal capitalism with either a return to feudalism or political upheaval. So any normative critique of Piketty needs to start with meritocracy.

54

LFC 12.11.15 at 4:48 am

@js. and F.Foundling
Comments noted but too late at my end to reply now. (Tomorrow.)

55

greg 12.11.15 at 5:41 am

Any distribution of income in a society requires the consumption of resources to maintain itself. That distribution which requires the least consumption of resources to maintain itself is the most ‘natural.’ It is the most efficient, as well as the most robust economy.

A greatly unequal society requires a great amount of resources to maintain its inequality, and thus itself. (A perfectly equal society also requires a large amount of resources just to maintain equality.) This consumption of resources, merely to maintain inequality, reduces the amount of resources available to actually operate the economy. That is, it reduces the efficiency of the economy. If the efficiency of the economy is sufficiently reduced, the economy cannot maintain itself.

56

greg 12.11.15 at 5:47 am

But I suppose the survival of the economy is beside the point.

57

Paul 12.11.15 at 6:51 am

UserGoogol @35: If you stop a hungry person picking an apple from a tree, it may be just (there may be a hungrier person who has planted and tended the tree, for example), but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t oppressive. But I concede this is a silly argument.
The serious argument is that property is so deeply engrained in our society that it tends to get a free pass. I suspect that most people’s conception of justice is based on the idea of “everyone has the right to their own stuff” ignoring completely how arbitrary our moral claims to owning anything as individuals actually are. What I dislike about the OP is that it effectively works from the position that existing claims on property are to be considered valid unless demonstrated otherwise; and doesn’t make this argument directly, but instead makes it implicitly by making egalitarianism prove its case.

58

John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 7:12 am

Rather than imputing a theory of justice to Piketty based on hints from Capital in the 21st Century, it would have been more helpful to respond to the explicitly normative analysis in his work with Saez, which leads to a call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 per cent.

This gives a clear answer to the “burden of proof” question raised in the comments above. In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

Again, the OP does none of this. There’s no sign that the author is even aware of Piketty’s large body of work leading up to Capital in the 21st Century

59

TM 12.11.15 at 9:34 am

The article is poorly argued and based on irrelevant speculation.

Bruce W 4: “The emblematic condition of Piketty’s work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed.”

In the light of our discussion in the other thread, I am a bit surprised. You are now admitting that Piketty’s argument is based on capital’s share of total income rising but clearly, that share cannot rise indefinitely or else it would swallow up all of production. This is what I have argued and you, if I remember correctly, called that “idiotic”. So which is it?

60

TM 12.11.15 at 9:47 am

“a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock of capital (relative to its income).” (Piketty)

This kind of argument really drives me to despair. If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an “enormous stock” of it. As of ownership, a lot of our accumulated capital is actually publicly owned and actually makes people’s lives better. Piketty makes no difference between productive capital and unproductive wealth and none between publicly and privately owned capital. Piketty makes it sound as if public investment in productive infrastructure is a bad policy because we really shouldn’t be accumulating so much capital. Exasperating.

61

Ze K 12.11.15 at 10:52 am

The justice thing is tricky. In the current western worldview, as I understand it, the only ‘just’ way to distribute a loaf of bread is to negotiate and sell it.

Capitalist inequality doesn’t need to be justified, because it’s not explicitly postulated (quite the opposite: ‘all men are created equal’), but is merely a side-effect of a much more fundamental concept, the right to own property, also known as ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’.

Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, but wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

62

Richard M 12.11.15 at 11:45 am

> If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an “enormous stock” of it.

That seems a failure of charitable reading. You can’t get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings. So by ‘capital’, he clearly means money, i.e. ownership rights, not the things that money buys.

Some interesting back-of-envelope calculations from link below suggest that there is two-to-three times as much ‘ investable capital’ as ‘capital required to run the economy’. Which explains why so much of it is spent trying to play zero-sum-except-in-case-of-fraud financial games. And why every-time someone does come up with a semi-valid new thing, they end up a billionaire.

http://continuations.com/post/134920840275/capital-is-no-longer-scarce

63

TM 12.11.15 at 1:04 pm

“You can’t get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings.”

But Piketty (“a country that saves a lot” etc.) doesn’t make any of these distinctions. Is it really uncharitable to take him literally?

64

reason 12.11.15 at 1:22 pm

There are some very controversial points raised in the OP.

This “even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates’s example would attest.” is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

65

reason 12.11.15 at 1:27 pm

“It seems that Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital or income as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true.”

I know Bruce W addressed this before @4, but to take another tack – it is also empirically not true since wage rates have been falling for 30 years at the same time as inequality has increased (not to mention that capital investment, at least since the invention of the joint stock company, is not an exclusive imperative of the wealthy).

66

reason 12.11.15 at 1:32 pm

Where do the figures from
” In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%. In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital, while in Europe the top 10% own 60% and the next 40% own 35% of capital. ” come from (there is no source given).

The figure for the US today looks simply odd:
http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/ suggests the top 10% today own 75% of the wealth.

67

reason 12.11.15 at 1:45 pm

“Piketty claims that ‘economics is a subdiscipline of the social sciences, alongside history, sociology, anthropology, and political science.’”

I regard this as rather unfortunate. I think economics is much closer in content and style and ecology and should be seen as a subset of ecology. If it saw itself that way, it would be much better.

68

MPAVictoria 12.11.15 at 2:19 pm

Paul I think you may find this article by Matt Bruenig interesting as it relates to many of the points you have made here:

http://www.demos.org/blog/6/3/14/lesson-grab-what-you-can

69

engels 12.11.15 at 2:27 pm

Lfc, speaking only for myself the problem with the OP of not that it’s ‘hostile to some kind of egalitarian position’ but that it’s making bad arguments against a set of made-up claims.

70

LFC 12.11.15 at 2:49 pm

reason @64
This “even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates’s example would attest.” is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

I think Cudd’s point here in the context of the post is the fairly banal one that not all fortunes are inherited, even today: Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc and then turning it into a corporate empire, helped *greatly* of course by intellectual-property laws once the software etc hit the market. I agree the sentence should be tweaked, but the ‘human capital’ reference here is to the fact that he and others he worked with were able to come up w/ whatever they came up with in the first place. Anyway, it’s sort of a side issue because the post is not about the legal, socioeconomic, and ‘luck’ conditions that allow some inventors to get wealthy and others not, and it was really a point just made in passing.

71

reason 12.11.15 at 2:54 pm

LFC @70
None the less the value of his human capital is what an employed programmer would have been paid to do what he did. And such a basic error, may not change the argument substantially, but along with some other errors (notably the incorrect wealth distribution figure quoted) gives the whole OP less authority than it otherwise might have had.

72

LFC 12.11.15 at 3:07 pm

JQ @58
In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

But “welfare-relevant differences between people” frequently exist, so at this level of generality that mostly kicks the can down the road, so to speak. Piketty and Saez’s call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 percent is presumably based on a combination of their normative leanings and their empirical judgment that such a tax rate would not harm economic growth in a major way so as to offset its redistributive or other benefits. Assuming that judgment is correct, I’m still not sure it’s reasonable to expect Cudd, who is a philosopher not an economist, to grapple with it. But I take the point that the OP as it’s presented infers (or imputes) a normative analysis on P.’s part w/o noting what he had written in that vein before the book.

73

Layman 12.11.15 at 3:09 pm

“Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc”

I think this is the wrong myth. Perhaps you mean Jobs?

74

engels 12.11.15 at 3:10 pm

His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates’s maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as
William Gates III
or “Trey” because his father had the “II” suffix.

75

engels 12.11.15 at 3:25 pm

Apropos of nothing where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

76

LFC 12.11.15 at 3:31 pm

js. @51
One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust—one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that’s rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

The main issue here though is not inequality in general but inequality of wealth and income. And no functioning economy in the real world can maintain a *completely* equal income distribution over time without a degree of micromanagement from someone that would be unworkable; probably not even a socialist utopia is going to have a *completely* equal distribution.

So there *will be* some inequalities of income and wealth. If you want to start from the position that all of those inequalities have to be justified on a case-by-case basis, so to speak, that’s fine with me, I guess. But you’re not going to end up w complete equality of income, empirically b.c is it’s not sustainable over time in any kind of minimally dynamic economy, and normatively b.c there are always going to be “welfare-relevant differences between people” (JQ’s phrase), e.g., those with particular disabilities, etc etc.

F Foundling @50
only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls ‘stigma’ and ‘oppression’ might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don’t think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

It depends partly on how broadly ‘oppression’ and ‘stigma’ are defined. If inherited wealth plays an ever-increasing role in an economy and if the result is a caste-like society which effectively stigmatizes those excluded from the top caste by denying them access to, e.g., anything like equal educational or employment opportunities, then on the OP’s reasoning that would be grounds for restricting inheritances.

77

TM 12.11.15 at 3:40 pm

66: These empirical claims clearly need to be documented. The organizers of this book forum should require the usual references from all authors.

78

LFC 12.11.15 at 3:45 pm

@66, @77

There’s a simple explanation: it’s a typographical error. “25%” at that point should read “75%”. Pretty obviously, the top 10% in the U.S. today don’t own a mere 25% of the ‘capital’. It’s a typo.

79

que_es 12.11.15 at 3:57 pm

cassander at 15: >If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

“If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It’s not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn’t describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake. “

Every Kennedy? Huh? A wealthy person today is perfectly free to leave all of his/her wealth to the eldest son. But wealthy families today are not stuck with primogeniture. They can design their own custom wealth preservation plans and impose restrictions on the use of family wealth for generations after the death of the patriarch/matriarch. Perhaps most importantly, they can and almost always do impose restrictions on the free alienability of that wealth that restricts the rights of third parties in ways that entrench the wealth within the family.

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JimV 12.11.15 at 4:11 pm

A minor digressive point about Bill Gates (based on reading the unauthorized biography “Gates”): he came from a wealthy background and as a result went to a school which had a computer club which had access to a PDP-11 mini-computer, at a time when most high schools did not have computer clubs. He and Paul Allen (illegally) copied the Basic Interpreter program of that computer, received slaps on the wrist for it (not that I think it deserved much more, but kids of a different social class might have been treated more severely), and later used it as the basis for their first commercial success, a Basic Interpreter for the first home micro-computer.

He and Paul Allen are very smart people, but there were probably at least 10,000 other kids as smart or smarter from poor or middle-class backgrounds in the USA at that time, but who did not have the same opportunities.

In conclusion, not a case of capital accumulation only, but it played a part – which I think is all that is necessary, just a a small fitness advance will raise a species to domination over time.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 4:19 pm

Ze K @61

…wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

Rawls TOJ 1971, p.15, emphasis added: “Once we decide to look for a conception of justice that nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance…, we are led to these principles [of justice].”

So Rawls was “a supporter of totalitarianism”? One could easily get the impression from reading certain things on the Internet and elsewhere that he was a squishy milquetoast liberal. My, my. Live and learn.

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js. 12.11.15 at 4:20 pm

LFC @76 — Oh, I don’t think each inequality needs to be justified on a case by case basis—something like the Difference Principle would do the trick. Maybe I’m not being clear, but I mean to make one specific point: Cudd is wrong to think that the equality presumption is false, or at any rate she hasn’t given any argument that would convince me otherwise. This isn’t a blanket criticism of her post or anything like that. For example, I think a lot of the stuff about oppression is interesting and worth thinking about. I just picked the one thing I disagree with (as one does).

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LFC 12.11.15 at 4:25 pm

@JimV
So Gates was not the best-chosen example at that pt in the OP, and I am more informed now about his b’ground than I was 15 minutes ago.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 4:29 pm

js. @82:
I get it. Fair enough.

Now we can get back to the burning question of whether people who support 80% inheritance/estate taxes and 70% top marginal tax rates are Stalinists or merely Trotskyists. ;)

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Ze K 12.11.15 at 4:33 pm

“So Rawls was “a supporter of totalitarianism”? “

Yeah, sounds like it, according to this excerpt, unless it’s ripped out of context. “nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance” sounds more radical than stalinism, it’s practically pol-potian.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 5:24 pm

@85
well, since the bk quoted from is 600 pp. long, it was necessarily out of context. (R’s first principle protects/prioritizes “basic [political] liberties”.) Anyway, the pt was I don’t think challenging inherited wealth equals Pol-Potianism. But this is just a minor eddy here, so we can agree to forget it.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 5:40 pm

engels @75
where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

My hunch/sense is that this is not a particularly reliable index of class position. There are probably some very non-affluent African-American families today with people w names like Jones III or Smith IV, etc.

On the other hand, when you see names with clear references to 17th or 18th cent. (hypothetically, something like “John Hancock V”), you pretty much know the person is from an old-line WASP family that’s been in the U.S. a long time. Which doesn’t *necessarily* mean wealthy, though it could well mean that.

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Ze K 12.11.15 at 5:55 pm

LFC, my point was about wealth acquired by luck, in general. Inheritance. Lottery. One could argue that entrepreneurial risk/reward falls into the same category. And even success in science – as in the Tesla/Edison story.

I’m saying that in the capitalist paradigm, denouncing one category of luck while glorifying another would be highly inconsistent, and therefor ‘unjust’. Conceptually, I mean.

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engels 12.11.15 at 6:02 pm

Rawls’ Harvard colleague, Nozick, said, among other things in course of responding to Rawls, that even mildly redistributive taxation (which Rawls’ system certainly cslls for) is ‘on a par with forced labour’, so perhaps Ze’s claim is not too far-fetched

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Ze K 12.11.15 at 6:11 pm

Yes, it’s logical, in the conceptual plane where ‘justice’ belongs.

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Robert 12.11.15 at 6:49 pm

Anybody who cites Gates as a rags-to-riches story is not worth talking to. It’s one of my heuristics.

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hix 12.11.15 at 7:21 pm

(though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background)

Really?

“In the for-profit world, Gates served for many years on the boards of several major corporations, including: First Interstate Bank of Washington; Unigard Security Insurance Group; Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company, which became U.S. WEST Communications; and KIRO Incorporated.

Beyond the Seattle area, Gates was appointed to the board of directors of the national United Way in 1980, becoming the first woman to lead it in 1983. Her tenure on the national board’s executive committee is believed to have helped Microsoft, based in Seattle, at a crucial time.”

“K&L Gates LLP is a US-based international law firm with offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and the United States.[2] Measured by headcount, it is the 8th largest law firm in the United States [3] and the 11th largest among law firms worldwide”

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LFC 12.11.15 at 7:45 pm

engels:
Rawls’ Harvard colleague, Nozick, said, among other things in course of responding to Rawls, that even mildly redistributive taxation (which Rawls’ system certainly cslls for) is ‘on a par with forced labour’

Nozick was a libertarian, hence an outlier in US academia.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 7:51 pm

hix @92
we’ve been through this already. i’ve been informed already his parents were clearly well off. not billionaires but clearly well off and well connected. i’ve already said he wasn’t a well-chosen ex. in that context. i don’t what more you want me to do. not Catholic so i can’t go to confession.

robert @91
I don’t think the OP was citing him that way, but as I said above, it’s a side issue.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 7:57 pm

Btw, there’s nothing logically inconsistent about denouncing inheritance and applauding entrepreneurialism. (The latter “myth” or whatever you want to call it is deeply ingrained in the natl psyche, so people can and do believe in rags to riches even if it rarely happens.) The two things are logically separable. Btw, Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia, its arguable sophistication and pyrotechnical impressiveness in parts notwithstanding, is irrelevant here. He is an outlier. (He did point out some weaknesses in Rawls, but so did lots of other people.)

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LFC 12.11.15 at 8:00 pm

Robert @91
Is another of your “heuristics” not to talk to anyone who hasn’t read the full biographies of every major business figure?

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engels 12.11.15 at 8:00 pm

Well US academia is an ‘outlier’ in US. But Nozick was prof at Harvard so hardly marginal, and his book was standard on undergrad courses for decades. When I studied pol phil (not even in US) I was taught it centred around a debate about ‘Justice’ between Rawls and Nozick and I know that’s not unusual.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 8:13 pm

As a college freshman (1975, in U.S.) I took a seminar much of which was centered on reading (chunks of) Rawls and Nozick. It was a big deal then. But that is not the point.

The point is that Nozick’s views are, I believe, marginal in the sense that relatively few political philosophers (in the Anglo-American-and-prob.-W. Europe, at any rate) accept them.

The fact that Nozick thought (I don’t recall this exactly, so I’m taking your word for it) that mildly redistributive taxation is on a par with forced labor is, IMO, so irrelevant to this discussion that its degree of irrelevance is almost beyond description.

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engels 12.11.15 at 9:04 pm

Nozick’s views are, I believe marginal in the sense that relatively few political philosophers (in the Anglo-American-and-prob.-W. Europe, at any rate) accept them

Let’s just say we have different definitions of ‘marginal’. But I agree about the irrelevance of all this to OP and I stand by my somewhat low opinion of that I’m afraid (I’m sure the great man will be more generous)

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hix 12.11.15 at 9:25 pm

@ LFC alright alright, I didnt read till the end, shoot me )-:.

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LFC 12.11.15 at 10:25 pm

@hix
no need to get that melodramatic.

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Cassander 12.12.15 at 1:25 am

@que es

No amount of clever estate planning can magically split dollars n ways and end up with the recipients getting more than x/n dollars on average. That’s not my opinion, that’s math. Dividing fortunes reduces inequality, full stop.

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Dr. Hilarius 12.12.15 at 5:05 am

Cassander @ 102: But cleaver estate planning still can do a great deal. Even without any planning, in the US at least, property obtained by inheritance is acquired at at stepped-up tax cost basis, thus eliminating capital gains taxes. Estate planning can eliminate inheritance taxes, protect assets from civil liability and prevent improvident heirs from spending it all on coke and hookers. There is a whole legal industry devoted to shielding assets so that the elderly don’t have to spend down to obtain medicare/medicaid benefits.

The above are more issues for the merely well-to-do rather than the truly wealthy but they still confer significant advantages over people who lack the necessary sophistication or legal fees to protect assets.

Consider also that inheritance of stock or shares of a business can confer a potential for appreciation beyond their immediate dollar value. Family-owned companies are often divided only in the sense of stock shares being divided among heirs while the company remains whole.

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Chris Bertram 12.12.15 at 8:29 am

I find myself troubled by Ann Cudd’s attribution to Piketty of the premise:

“Any inequality that is not justified is unjust”

Piketty says somewhere in the book that he thinks within-country inequality is particularly troubling. That suggests that he holds not the unrestricted view that Cudd attributes to him but a view that says that some agent (presumably the state) has a duty to treat persons (citizens) as equals and that this entails some further duty not to organize social institutions thought its authority in ways that confer systematic advantages on some citizens rather than others. (That Piketty holds such a view may be unwelcome to those of us (like me) who hold a more globally egalitarian position than he does.)

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Ze K 12.12.15 at 8:58 am

“Btw, there’s nothing logically inconsistent about denouncing inheritance and applauding entrepreneurialism.”

Inconsistencies are all over the place, with this approach. As I see it, the Third Way or ‘liberal’ (American sense) economy is a compromise between 2 radical (moralistic, dogmatic) visions. This is its strength, of course, but it’s also its weakness. Its promise is something like ‘the best practical strategy for achieving decent material conditions for almost everybody’. Idealistic ‘justice’ is not the strongest suit here.

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Collin Street 12.12.15 at 10:40 am

> Dividing fortunes reduces inequality, full stop.

Sure.

But what you need to show isn’t “dividing fortunes reduce inequality”, it’s “dividing fortunes reduce inequality fast enough to overcome the other wealth-concentrating effects active in the economy”. Even the presence of divided inheritance can still leave you with overall increases in inequality, if [some] fortunes grow faster over a lifetime than they’re broken down at the end of it.

… and this embodies a deeply empirical question that would be best answered by careful accumulation of piecemeal empirical data — the only sort we have — looking at all factors. It’d probably take decades, and at the end of it you’ll have enough data for a best-selling tome or three.

And there’s a bloke what’s done that, and he wrote a book and he sold the book and everybody’s talking about it, and his name ain’t cassander. You’re making empirical claims against a book that’s better-researched than your posts and has come to opposite conclusions: your approach does not strike me as likely to be effective for any useful purpose or outcome.

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Rakesh Bhandari 12.12.15 at 11:24 am

@104 interesting…
http://www.avenir-suisse.ch/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Pauvres-en-Suisse-riches-dans-le-monde1.pdf?11ce55
Piketty argues however that we have entered a period of convergence in per capita income between poor and rich countries. See p. 61 and 67. But he does not seem to discuss the time scale for this process (Milanovic: “While the real income of the US 2nd decile has increased by some 20% in quarter century, the income of China’s 8th decile has been multiplied by a factor of 6.5. The absolute income gap, still significant five years ago, before the onset of the Great recession, has almost been eliminated.”)

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Richard M 12.12.15 at 11:43 am

You still have inequality even between people with equal amounts of money. Say one commutes to a 60 hour work week doing stuff with spreadsheets, and one occasionally shows their face at the art gallery they own…

Perhaps hard to find in simple statistics, because what you are measuring is not income, but having the option to not bother earning a higher income. You can measure roaches climbing a wall, harder to measure how much a phone call to a parent could change things.

And that’s exactly the kind of inequality that inherited capital causes; inequality between _classes_. If two people have the same amount of money, but the nature of the economic circumstances that caused them to have that money is different, then their political interests will be different.

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Roger Gathman 12.12.15 at 10:36 pm

If one shows that inequality threatens the republican system one favors, I see no need, really, for further ethical grounding. Indeed, I think the shoe is on the other foot. Is there any injustice, from a marginal utility perspective, in expropriating wealth that serves no purpose in helping the owner afford a fairly nice lifestyle that does not encroach on “subjective or objective” well being. From a republican point of view, the argument for large wealth inequality is not that one has a “right” to what one can extract from the economic machine, but rather, that the large wealth inequality brings with it collateral and indispensable benefits to society.
I think the latter is not the case. It may be that some inequality does unleash the spirit of competition and creativity that economists say is characteristic of capitalism. But inequality such as that we are seeing seems, prima facie, unnecessary.

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engels 12.13.15 at 12:56 am

“If one shows that inequality threatens the republican system one favors, I see no need, really, for further ethical grounding”

Piketty’s book changed opinions more in a year than Rawls et al did in decades. There’s a reason for that.

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Roger Gathman 12.13.15 at 1:58 am

I think the impact of the so called “dark thinkers” – Hobbes, Mandeville Machiavelli – was to loosen the bond between the moral and the political order. In my opinion, an underlying ethical system can host a number of political forms, from monarchy to communism. It is the second level, the level of “worldly wisdom”, in which the exact combinations of allowable vice and virtue are fought over. Mandeville and Adam Smith both saw that an individual vice – greed – could lead to a social good. Mandeville went further, and claimed that individual virtues could lead to socially bad results. I think one of the individual vices that certainly conforms to this type is envy. Envy may be bad when it becomes an individual passion, but I think envy has a very socially useful function. It is an indispensible part of social fairness. Envy sets human limits – it pulls down hubris. It gets a bad rap from the defenders of wealth, even though the wealthy themselves use it continually – marketing is in fact envy writ large. It is both a motive for wealth and a motive to curb wealth. To my mind, this would be an excellent time to produce a Mandevillian defense of envy. Pull down those fortunes, please. We want the power of the powerful. And why not?

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LFC 12.13.15 at 5:36 am

R Gathman @111

See: Jeffrey E. Green, “Rawls and the Forgotten Figure of the Most Advantaged: In Defense of Reasonable Envy toward the Superrich,”American Political Science Review, February 2013.

An ungated pdf is available; search on the author’s name in Google Scholar.

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Roger Gathman 12.13.15 at 6:10 pm

Thanks for the link, LFC!

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engels 12.13.15 at 7:14 pm

this would be an excellent time to produce a Mandevillian defense of envy

Problem is (and I made a similar point on Chris’ post) people mostly seem to experience envy towards those who aren’t too differently situated from themselves. I’m less likely to envy Bill Gates his private jet than I am my colleague’s promotion. Saying that socialists are motivated by envy is mostly a right-wing straw man imo. (Iirc Rawls himself talks about envy a bit in ToJ and says it is not necessarily irrational.)

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LFC 12.13.15 at 7:26 pm

@R.G.
you’re welcome.
(I haven’t really read the piece yet beyond the abstract.)

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ccc 12.14.15 at 1:06 pm

“However, the equality presumption is false; it is a fallacy akin to the principle of insufficient reason, which assumes equiprobability of events where there is no reason to assign another probability. But there is also no reason to assign equal probability rather than any other, and thus rationality cannot demand that. By the same token, morality cannot demand equal shares of a good (or bad) in the absence of a reason for it. I take this to be a point of logic, not morality.”

I find that puzzling! The normative claim that distributive equality is something valuable and that deviations from distributive equality must be justified is something many find intuitively plausible. Unless that widely shared moral intuition is shown flawed the equality presumption stands.

What Cudd says about logic and “principle of insufficient reason” does not show any flaw with that intuition once we make a distinction that Cudd does not make.

In the widest sense “inequality” means simply that there is some difference of any kind between any two relata. In that widest sense there is no presumption for equality.

But egalitarians in political philosophy believe in, and have the intuition about, equality in a more specific sense. Egalitarians care about equality of that which is fundamentally valuable in the lives of individuals. How to further specify that valuable something is the subject of the large “equality of what?” literature. Some candidates: wellbeing, basic goods, capabilities and opportunities.

Let us illustrate with one version of such distributive egalitarianism: wellbeing egalitarianism. Wellbeing egalitarians believe that an inequality in wellbeing that is not justified is unjust. The presumption is then against activities and social structures that generate unequal distributions of wellbeing. However if some activity or social structure does not generate any noticeable unequal wellbeing distribution (like the activity of inviting 8 persons to one party and 9 persons to another) then the egalitarian has no presumption against it and there is no need to justify anything.

Perhaps Cudd does feel the pull of the egalitarian intuition. But Cudd’s favored normative notion “oppression” is introduced intuitively by Cudd, not argued for. Someone could then turn Cudd’s own method of arguing against her own view: why presume that oppression (as specified by Cudd) is unjust rather than just? Is not the anti-oppression presumption defeated by logic to the same extent as the equality presumption?

I don’t know if Piketty is a distributive egalitarian of the kind I’ve sketched here. But this is at least how such an egalitarian can reply to Cudd. John Quiggin is right that Piketty could alternatively be interpreted as arguing from utilitarianism combined with the belief that income has a diminishing marginal capacity to generate wellbeing for individuals. Or perhaps Piketty, like many people, has not firmly settled on either of these two alternatives. That would not matter much in practice. Because in the world as it is such utilitarians and distributive egalitarians should, despite their difference on the level of theory, still reach the same practical policies most of the time, policies for less distributive inequality.

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ccc 12.14.15 at 1:10 pm

correction: I meant to write “Perhaps Cudd does *not* feel the pull …” in the second to last paragraph.

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