Not Economics the Way That I Do It

by Don Boudreaux on May 7, 2014

in Myths and Fallacies, Seen and Unseen

Make what you will of this quotation from pages 395-396 of Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century (emphasis added):

The fact that a person has good ideas at age thirty or forty does not imply that she will still be having them at seventy or eighty, yet her wealth will continue to increase by itself.  Or it can be passed on to the next generation and continue to increase there.

By itself.  Miraculous stuff, this wealth.

Or perhaps it’s not miraculous.  Perhaps instead it’s alive.  Living organisms reproduce themselves.  Either way, this wealth grows through no human agency (or none to be seen through Piketty’s lenses).  No creative destruction.  It’s all so very automatic and, hence, convenient for those individuals fortunate enough to have grabbed (or been bequeathed) some of this miraculous or life-infused goo that increases by itself.

Piketty does recognize destructive destruction, such as war.  And while it would be inaccurate and unfair to suggest that Piketty celebrates destructive destruction, he clearly does celebrate the fact that such destruction wipes out far larger absolute amounts of wealth owned by the rich than it wipes out of wealth owned by the not-rich – thus making people, if only (sigh) temporarily, more economically equal.

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