Saturday, 3 May 2014

Thomas Piketty economics: How the trendy Frenchman could influence Ontario election


Thomas Piketty

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book by French elite scholar Thomas Piketty, has become an unlikely bestseller.

Less than a month after its English edition appeared in the United States, the book has lit a fire amongst the world's scribbling classes. Print copies of the book have sold out, while the digital edition has gone to number one on Amazon.

Here in Ontario, just about the last thing Premier Kathleen Wynne did before calling a provincial election for June 12 was release a Piketty-esque budget, which opposition parties rejected.
Now, in a real-world test, the people of Ontario will have a chance to prove whether the popularity of the Piketty principles extend beyond the ivory towers.

Piketty's book is a reasoned argument that economic inequality is not only bad for capitalism but is a natural outgrowth of unrestrained capitalism. It claims to prove that the only way to get the global economy back on track is through intervention by governments. As such, it is a rabbit punch to the belly of traditional free-market thinking.

Premier Wynne has not officially aligned herself with Piketty. But with the policies laid out in the Liberal budget — higher taxes on the rich; a pension for people threatened with poverty in old age; a higher minimum wage; higher payroll taxes on the private sector — Wynne seems to be positioning herself as the Piketty Premier.

"The book’s success has a lot to do with being about the right subject at the right time," says The Economist magazine in an article this week. Certainly the media, left and right, is flooded with reviews and commentary on Piketty and his thoughts. Those who agree call his ideas revolutionary. Critics call him a dangerous ideologue.

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